Luchino Visconti – Il gattopardo AKA The Leopard (1963)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Luchino Visconti’s “Il Gattopardo” is an epic on the grandest possible scale. The film recreates, with nostalgia, drama, and opulence, the tumultuous years of Italy’s Risorgimento, when the aristocracy lost its grip and the middle classes rose and formed a unified, democratic Italy. Burt Lancaster stars as the aging prince watching his culture and fortune wane in the face of a new generation, represented by his upstart nephew (Alain Delon) and his beautiful fiancée (Claudia Cardinale). Awarded the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, “Il Gattopardo” translates Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel, and the history it recounts, into a truly cinematic masterpiece. Continue reading

Volker Schlöndorff – Baal (1970)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Plot:
Baal explores the cult of the genius, an anti-heroic figure who chooses to be a social outcast and live on the fringe of bourgeois morality.

Quote:
Screening as part of the Masters & Restorations program at this year’s MIFF is Baal, writer/director Volker Schlöndorff’s television adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s play of the same name which features a rare leading performance by Schlöndorff’s contemporary in the German New Wave and master filmmaker Reiner Werner Fassbinder outside of his own films. After a single screening in 1970 it was removed from public release by Brecht’s widow, but 44 years later is making the rounds at film festivals thanks his granddaughter who has approved its release. And thankfully it was worth the wait, offering a rare treat for foreign film fans. Continue reading

Govindan Aravindan – Uttarayanam (1974)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Quote:
Aravindan’s debut extended a 60s Calicut modernism into cinema, drawing on the work of the writer Pattathiruvila Karunakaran, who produced the film, and the satirical playwright Thikkodiyan, who co-scripted it. The plot is about a disabused young man, Ravi, who has a series of ironic encounters while looking for a job. One of his mentors, Kumaran Master, and his now critically ill friend Setu had participated in the 1942 Quit India agitations with Ravi’s father (shown in flashback). The lawyer Gopalan Muthalaly, also a participant in those events, has become a rich contractor and an example of the corrupt post-Independence bourgeoisie. Ravi abandons the city and, in a mystical ending, is initiated into ‘eternal truths’ by a godman meditating on a mountain. The figures of the father and the ailing friend form a composite portrait of Sanjayan, a political activist, spiritualist and satirist, and major influence on the Calicut artists who participated in the film. Aravindan’s approach to his lead characters and his framing evoke the cartoon characters Ramu and Guruji from his Small Man and Big World series Continue reading

Moumen Smihi – Chroniques marocaines AKA Moroccan Chronicles (1999)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

In Moroccan Chronicles, set in the ancient city of Fez, a working class mother, abandoned by her husband who has emigrated to Europe, tells three tales to her just-circumcised ten-year-old son. In the first, Smihi re-stages the Marrakech market scene from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, in which a monkey trainer makes children dance for tourists. In the second, two lovers meet on the ramparts of Orson Welles’s Essaouira locations for Othello and speak of their own forbidden love. And in the third, set in Smihi’s home town of Tangier, an old sailor dreams of vanquishing a sea monster: the Gibraltar ferry that connects Europe to Africa. Continue reading

Peter Brook – Moderato cantabile AKA Seven Days… Seven Nights (1960)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Synopsis:
A wealthy and bored woman is witness of a murder in affection and meets another witness. She asks him about the history of the victim and falls in love with him.

— IMDb.

Review:

One of those movies that mesmerizes through its restraint, this is set in a dreary coastal small town—familiar territory for French cinema—where Anne Desbarèdes (Moreau) is the beautiful, bored wife of the principal local employer (Deschamps); “No,” she says at one point, summarizing not just the starkness of the place but her own life there, “summer never comes in this region. It’s always windy.” Continue reading