Bob Rafelson – Five Easy Pieces (1970)

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In an Academy Award -nominated performance for Best Actor, Jack Nicholson is outstanding in Five Easy Pieces, the acclaimed drama from director Bob Rafelson. Although a brilliant, classical pianist from an intellectual, well-to-do family – Robert Dupea has made a career out of running from job to job and woman to woman. Presently working in an oil field, Dupea spends most of his free time downing beers,playing poker and being noncommittal with his sexy but witless girlfriend Rayette. But when he is summoned to his father’s deathbed, Dupea returns home with Raette, where he meets and falls for a sophisticated woman. Now caught between his conflicting lifestyles, the gifted but troubled Dupea must face issues that will change his life forever. Deceptively simple, but one of the most complex and interesting films of its time – Five Easy Pieces garnered a 1970 Academy Award nomination for Best Picture – with Black receiving the 1970 New York Film Critics award for her excellent performance. Continue reading

Jack Arnold – The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

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SYNOPSIS: While out on the ocean with his wife, Scott Carey’s boat drifts through a strange mist that leave a metallic residue covering his body. He thinks nothing of it at the time but within a few weeks he begins to notice that he is losing weight. A visit to the doctor also confirms that he is getting shorter. As he gets smaller and smaller, doctors determine that his exposure to insecticides followed by what must have been a radioactive mist has caused a genetic mutation. They manage to stop his shrinking, but only temporarily. Eventually, he is small to the point where encounters with the household cat and later a spider become potentially deadly situations. Continue reading

Kjell Grede – Harry Munter (1969)

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Harry Munter, a sensitive, kind, appealing man in his twenties, lives with his parents. He’s an inventor, a bit of a mystic, maybe a genius, and a good son and grandson. He’s offered work in the U.S. But a friend has cancer and the world is changing in ways that provoke profound sadness

Amos Vogel in “Film as Subversive Art”:  ”A powerful, poetic image: the mystery of black against white, of an outsider walking on the water, on stilts, Christ-like, stubborn, the tension of his forward-leaning body reflecting his determination. This, indeed, is the topic of this intensely mysterious, lyrical film, one of the most original and disregarded works of contemporary cinema.” Continue reading

John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Apotheosis (1970)

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What a perfect film…..short and simple, Ono takes a camera and a boom mike onto a hot air balloon, kicks the rope, and starts the camera and lets us watch as it goes above the clouds for a 17 minute shot. Key things to notice: A roll of 16mm film films only 14 minutes yet the film runs for 17, meaning somewhere in the clouds Ono had another camera loaded and started when the first one ran out, yet somehow the splice is not noticeable and there weren’t any computers at the time to fix this sort of thing…..all i can say is optical printing tricks at its best. The last shot, as the balloon rises above the clouds, the wind silences, and the sun becomes visible, is alone worth checking out this timeless classic of experimental film. Continue reading

Richard Myers – The Path (1960)

B&W, SILENT.

“Light as the symbol of the ineffable. The ‘plot’ of this subjective recreation of a dream seems to concern a mysterious journey; the spectator, however, is visually directed toward forms and substances rather than to the protagonists by a filmmaker who is a master of visionary cinema.” – Amos Vogel, Film as a Subversive Art

“Richard Myers has, thru his films, given us the ONLY consistently creative variable to dream-thinking in our time. All else, in film, slides toward surrealism and/or props itself with misplaced Freudian symbols, at best, or else gets lost in the Jung-le, at the verses. Myers’ work is rooted in what he doesn’t know about, just exactly what he knows – his own home grounds mid-America, and like D.W. Griffith he takes the great risk of being native to his art, attending it on its home-grown grounds/his-UNowned-dreams.” – Stan Brakhage Continue reading

Len Lye – Free Radicals (1958)

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Free Radicals

Directed by Len Lye
US 1958, revised 1979, 16mm, b/w, 4 min.

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In arguably his greatest film, Lye reduces the medium to its most basic elements by scratching designs on black film. He used a variety of scribers ranging from dental tools to an ancient Native American arrowhead, and synchronized the images to traditional African music (a field tape of the Bagirmi tribe). The film won second prize in the International Experimental Film Competition, which was judged by Man Ray, Norman McLaren, Alexander Alexeiff and others at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. In 1979 Lye further condensed the film by dropping a minute of footage. Stan Brakhage described the final version as “an almost unbelievably immense masterpiece (a brief epic).” Continue reading

Roberto Rossellini – Francesco, giullare di Dio AKA The Flowers of St. Francis [+Extras] (1950)

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The Flowers of St. Francis—or, Francesco, giullare di Dio (Francis, God’s Jester), to give it its full title in Italian—is a delicate, fascinating hybrid, a film that is self-consciously, almost militantly, naive, and, as such, something of an anomaly in Rossellini’s body of work. Never again would his films attain the directness, simplicity, even purity that is so gloriously on display here, a work poised between the theological and the historical, between the Rossellini who emerged from neorealism into the full-blown spiritual crisis manifested in The Miracle, Stromboli, and Europa ’51, all set in postwar Italy, and the latter-day director whose abiding interest was in the depiction of history. Those later works often took religious subjects, but unlike in Acts of the Apostles, Augustine of Hippo, and The Messiah, Rossellini in The Flowers of St. Francis is less concerned with creating a portrait of a particular historical figure than he is with exploring the nature of spirituality, specifically, of “Franciscanism” itself and its impact on the medieval world. Continue reading