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

Tony Conrad – The Flicker (1965)

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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)

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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

Leni Riefenstahl & Béla Balázs – Das blaue Licht AKA The Blue Light (1932)

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Synopsis
Junta is hated by the people in the village where she lives, especially by the women, who suspect her of being a witch. Only she can climb the nearby mountains to a cave high up, whence a mysterious blue light glows when the moon is full. Many young men of the village have died trying to follow her. She is driven out of town, and takes to living in the mountains. Eventually she shares the secret of the blue light with one man, and he betrays it. Continue reading

René Clément – Jeux interdits aka Forbidden Games [+ Extras] (1952)

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Parisians flee into the countryside, strafed by German planes. Her parents shot, a small girl (Brigitte Fossey) wanders into the countryside, finding refuge with a peasant family. She and their youngest son (Georges Poujouly) form a liason against the adults. The French authorites hated it, but the film triumphed abroad and confirmed Clemént as a director of compassion and brilliance. Continue reading