Allan King – Warrendale (1967)

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King’s feature debut, Warrendale, about a collection of volatile children from the titular Toronto-based rehabilitation center, has been compared to the works of Pennebaker, Maysles, and Rouch within the cinema vérité and Direct Cinema movements. But King’s approach to capturing the children’s emotional ebbs and flows as they experience anger, guilt, and finally tragedy, seems arguably more human, hypnotically attuned to the delicate sensitivities of people’s movements and sounds. As the adult caregivers attempt to build trust with these damaged children, King focuses on the intimate moments of counseling, reassurance, and discourse structuring the narrative. That these sequences often devolve into hysterical fits and seizures makes the film all the more forceful, showing the dark undercarriage of childhood trauma without any buffer or safety net. The film’s striking emotional centerpiece, a family-style meeting between counselors and children about the sudden death of the house cook, is a breathtaking display of collective heartbreak and rejuvenation that creates a frenzy of repressed rage. In a single moment, King’s camera becomes engulfed in an emotional war zone, pinned down but never overwhelmed by honest, raw expression, always able to capture the small moments on the fringes of the frame. Continue reading

Bob Rafelson – Five Easy Pieces (1970)

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Following Jack Nicholson’s breakout supporting turn in Easy Rider, director Bob Rafelson devised a powerful leading role for the new star in the searing character study Fve Easy Pieces. Nicholson plays the now iconic cad Bobby Dupea, a shiftless thirtysomething oil rigger and former piano prodigy immune to any sense of responsibility, who returns to his upper-middle-class childhood home, blue-collar girlfriend (Karen Black, in an Oscar-nominated role) in tow, to see his estranged, ailing father. Moving in its simplicity and gritty in its textures, Five Easy Pieces is a lasting example of early 1970s American alienation. Continue reading

Robert Bresson – Pickpocket (1959)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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Synopsis
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