Amos Vogel: Film as a Subversive Art

Richard Lester & Peter Sellers – The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1960)

“Shot in two days, this wild early collaboration between Peter Sellers, Richard Lester (Hard Day’s Night), and Spike Milligan (of the Goon Show) is a perfect example of surrealist comedy. The various protagonists undergo ridiculous catastrophes, exaggerated non-sequiturs, and Keystonian mayhem in a sylvan setting. Produced at hardly any cost at all, it proves once again that talent is more important than money.”
– Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art Read More »

    Milos Forman – Horí, má panenko AKA The Firemen’s Ball (1967)

    Quote:
    A milestone of the Czech New Wave, Milos Forman’s first color film The Firemen’s Ball (Horí, má panenko) is both a dazzling comedy and a provocative political satire. A hilarious saga of good intentions confounded, the story chronicles a firemen’s ball where nothing goes right—from a beauty pageant whose reluctant participants embarrass the organizers to a lottery from which nearly all the prizes are pilfered. Presumed to be a commentary on the floundering Czech leadership, the film was “banned forever” in Czechoslovakia following the Russian invasion and prompted Forman’s move to America. Read More »

      Gillo Pontecorvo – La battaglia di Algeri AKA The Battle of Algiers (1966)

      Quote:
      The most electrifyingly timely movie playing in New York was made in 1965. Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers is famous, but for some time it’s been available only in washed-out prints with poorly translated, white-on-white subtitles. The newly translated and subtitled 35-millimeter print at Film Forum is presumably the version that was privately screened in August for military personnel by the Pentagon as a field guide to fighting terrorism. Former national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski volunteered this blurb: “If you want to understand what’s happening right now in Iraq, I recommend The Battle of Algiers.” I wonder if these politicos are aware that Pontecorvo’s epic was once used by the Black Panthers as a training film? In fact, not much in the current Iraq situation is historically comparable to the late-fifties Algerian struggle for independence dramatized in The Battle of Algiers, but its anatomy of terror remains unsurpassed—and, woefully, ever fresh. Read More »

        Carmelo Bene – Don Giovanni (1970)

        Synopsis:
        Spectacular Italian comedy-drama directed by Carmelo Bene. The narrative follows how Don Giovanni tries to seduce a young woman who is manically searching for Christian icons. The film is loosely based on Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly’s short story “The Greatest Love of Don Juan”, from the collection Les Diaboliques. The film premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival. Read More »

          Howard Alk – The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)

          Quote:
          Chicago native Howard Alk helped found Second City in 1959 and made a name for himself in the ’60s and ’70s as a documentary cinematographer, editor, and director. His debut feature, American Revolution 2 (1969, codirected by Mike Gray) looked at the Black Panther Party in Chicago; this follow-up, a profile of Panther leader Fred Hampton, unexpectedly turned into a true-crime story in December 1969 when Hampton and another Panther were fatally shot during the Chicago Police Department’s notorious raid on a Panther crash pad in West Town. The documentary (1971) presents Hampton as a charismatic figure given to violent revolutionary rhetoric, but after his death the focus shifts to Cook County state’s attorney Ed Hanrahan, whose report exonerating the police department was treated as gospel truth by the Chicago Tribune but belied by a wealth of physical evidence at the scene of the crime. As a first draft of history, this is invaluable, though its topical relevance has hardly diminished. Read More »

            Octavio Getino & Fernando E. Solanas – La hora de los hornos AKA The Hour of the Furnaces (1968)

            Nicole Brenez for BFI wrote:
            Made in Argentina in 1968, The Hour of the Furnaces (La hora de los hornos) is the film that established the paradigm of revolutionary activist cinema. “For the first time,” said one of its writers, Octavio Getino, “we demonstrated that it was possible to produce and distribute a film in a non-liberated country with the specific aim of contributing to the political process of liberation.” The film is not just an act of courage, it’s also a formal synthesis, a theoretical essay and the origin of several contemporary image practices. Read More »

              Rubén Gámez – La Fórmula secreta AKA The Secret Formula (1965)

              IMDB comments say:
              This is one of the best Mexican short movies ever. You could probably imagine the Mexican idiosyncrasy, read some history books, but you will find a big difference and experience the feeling of the post-revolutionary age of Mexico with this film.

              Labor unions, the invasion of large scale and global foreign companies, the mother’s love, the Mexican habits descriptions are part of this master piece.

              Adding the emotion of Jaime Sabine’s narration voice in all the allegoric signs and metaphors. Read More »