Robert Bresson – Pickpocket (1959)


Michel is an inscrutable young man – neatly dressed, mild mannered, intelligent – hardly the type whom one would suspect to be a pickpocket. And perhaps, that is reason that he does it. Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket is a well crafted, austere, and taut film of a man driven by his self-destructive compulsion. We first encounter Michel (Martin LaSalle) at a Paris racetrack, stealthily fingering through the clasp of a woman’s handbag, reaching in, pocketing her money. A wild, almost euphoric gaze comes over his impassive face, heightened by the cheering crowd as the horses approach the finish line. Soon, his compulsion consumes him. His friend, Jacques (Pierre Leymarie) furnishes him with contacts for employment opportunities, but he does not follow through. Continue reading

Carolee Schneemann – Fuses (1964 – 1966)

A silent film of collaged and painted sequences of lovemaking between Schneemann and her then partner, composer James Tenney; observed by the cat, Kitch.

Carolee Schneemann wrote:
…I wanted to see if the experience of what I saw would have any correspondence to what I felt– the intimacy of the lovemaking… And I wanted to put into that materiality of film the energies of the body, so that the film itself dissolves and recombines and is transparent and dense– as one feels during lovemaking… It is different from any pornographic work that you’ve ever seen– that’s why people are still looking at it! And there’s no objectification or fetishization of the woman Continue reading

Stanley Kubrick – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)


In 1964, with the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in viewers’ minds, the Cold War at its frostiest, and the hydrogen bomb relatively new and frightening, Stanley Kubrick dared to make a film about what could happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button — and played the situation for laughs.

Dr. Strangelove’s jet-black satire (from a script by director Stanley Kubrick, Peter George, and Terry Southern) and a host of superb comic performances (including three from Peter Sellers) have kept the film fresh and entertaining, even as its issues have become (slightly) less timely. Loaded with thermonuclear weapons, a U.S. bomber piloted by Maj. T.J. “King” Kong (Slim Pickens) is on a routine flight pattern near the Soviet Union when they receive orders to commence Wing Attack Plan R, best summarized by Maj. Kong as “Nuclear combat! Toe to toe with the Russkies!” On the ground at Burpleson Air Force Base, Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) notices nothing on the news about America being at war. Continue reading

Pere Portabella – Cuadecuc, vampir (1971)


Cuadecuc, vampir is a dreamlike combination of documentary, narrative, experimental, and essay film styles and is one of the key films of contemporary Spanish cinema. Shot on the set of Jesus Franco’s Italian horror film Count Dracula, and featuring the star of that film, Christopher Lee, Vampir is both a sly political allegory about generalissimo Francisco Franco, a gentle homage to early films about the vampire legend, particularly Dreyer’s Vampyr and Murnau’s Nosferatu, and a work of subtle beauty and great richness. Continue reading

Andrei Tarkovsky – Andrey Rublyov AKA Andrei Rublev (1969) DVD

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Presented as a tableaux of seven sections in black and white, with a final montage of Rublev’s painted icons in color, the film takes an unflinching gaze at medieval Russia during the first quarter of the 15th century, a period of Mongol-Tartar invasion and growing Christian influence.

Commissioned to paint the interior of the Vladimir cathedral, Andrei Rublev (Anatoli Solonitsyn) leaves the Andronnikov monastery with an entourage of monks and assistants, witnessing in his travels the degradations befalling his fellow Russians, including pillage, oppression from tyrants and Mongols, torture, rape, and plague. Faced with the brutalities of the world outside the religious enclave, Rublev’s faith is shaken, prompting him to question the uses or even possibility of art in a degraded world. After Mongols sack the city of Vladimir, burning the very cathedral that he has been commissioned to paint, Rublev takes a vow of silence and withdraws completely, removing himself to the hermetic confines of the monastery. Continue reading

Tony Conrad – The Flicker (1965)


The film starts with a warning message, which reads:

WARNING. The producer, distributor, and exhibitors waive all liability for physical or mental injury possibly caused by the motion picture “The Flicker.” Since this film may induce epileptic seizures or produce mild symptoms of shock treatment in certain persons, you are cautioned to remain in the theatre only at your own risk. A physician should be in attendance.

The film then goes on to a frame that says “Tony Conrad Presents,” and then to a frame that says “The Flicker,” at which point it starts. The screen goes blank, then after a short while, the screen flickers with a single black frame. This is repeated again and again until it creates a strobe effect, for which the film is titled. This continues until the film stops abruptly Continue reading

Nagisa Ôshima – Tôkyô sensô sengo hiwa AKA The Man Who Left His Will on Film (1970)


Aesthetic and political rebel, Oshima is one of the most original directors now working in Japan. This is a metaphysical tale of a radical student filmmaker who succumbs to the illusion that he has committed suicide and left a film as his testament. Attempting to
“decipher” this film and the “dead man’s” life, he rapes his own girl (who plays along with the illusion to cure him) and retraces the “other man’s” life by means of the film, only to find himself in his own birthplace. The film testament proves incomprehensible. He therefore refilms it, intending to create a work superior to that of his illusory rival; but his girl, to save him, willfully interrupts and changes each scene. He finally realizes that he must kill the dead man — himself — in order to be free. Several key episodes, including sex scenes, are recreated by the protagonists in front of a screen showing the film testament so that they are projected onto their bodies. Throughout, the style is meticulously realistic, meticulously metaphysical.

– from Vogel’s Film as a Subversive Art Continue reading