Ben Rivers – The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (2015)

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Shooting against the staggering beauty of the Moroccan landscape, from the rugged terrain of the Atlas Mountains to the stark and surreal emptiness of the desert, with its encroaching sands and abandoned film sets, a director abandons his own film set and descends into a hallucinatory, perilous adventure of cruelty, madness and malevolence. A Paul Bowles story combined with observational footage forms a multi-layered excavation into the illusion of cinema itself. Continue reading

Theodor Boder – Strasek, der Vampir (1982)

Serbia, in the year 1910: Milena Strasek has lived with her 12-year-old son Stefan in a small village since the father abandoned the family shortly after Stefan was born. Many years of uncertainty concerning the man’s whereabouts have taken their toll: Milena Strasek falls seriously ill and dies, leaving her son alone in the empty house. The father appears the following night. He has come to take his son, but Stefan refuses to go with him. It is a fateful encounter, changing Stefan for the rest of his life. Continue reading

Anucha Boonyawatana – Onthakan AKA The Blue Hour (2015)

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Tam, a timid loner, is bullied regularly by his fellow pupils at school. He is met with similar rejection and suspicion within the narrow confines of his parents’ dingy home, where his father beats him. One day Tam arranges online to meet Phum at a derelict swimming pool. They are both looking for sex, but their encounter leaves them with a feeling of comfort and security. A close bond develops between the two boys and, before long, they are roaming the rubbish heaps and dark corners of the city together, day and night. Phum opens a door for Tam, revealing a fantastical parallel universe full of spirits and dangerous encounters. Although he feels safe and loved for the first time in his life, Tam can no longer differentiate between dream and reality and finds himself increasingly drawn into a spiral of paranoia and violence. In his feature debut Boonyawatana leads his protagonist into an ambiguous microcosm full of chasms, at the same time cleverly toying with the conventions of different genres. Continue reading

Krzysztof Zanussi – Constans AKA The Constant Factor (1980)

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Apart from the conscience provoking “A Short Film About Killing” I have always found Western European audiences’ adulation of the Polish director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, rather excessive, all the more so when compared to the comparative neglect of Zanussi, that other, to my mind , infinitely greater Krzysztof. During the late ’70’s and early ’80’s he produced a remarkable body of work that, although dealing with rigorous intellectual concepts, perfectly balanced head with heart. In “Night Paths” he examines a contemporary generation’s indifference to history; in “The Contract” he uses the stag as a metaphor for the nobility and strength that, in his view, Polish society fails to aspire to, while in “The Constant Factor” he makes use of mathematics in an attempt to shed light on the awesome possibilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This latter is a multi-layered work, on the one hand dealing with the consequencies of maintaining integrity within a corrupt employment situation and at a deeper level attempting to understand the randomness of fate that mankind is exposed to regardless of political dogmas or individual standards of morality. Witold, the main protagonist of the film, is a young man whose father, a famous mountaineer, has been killed in a climbing accident. He has one objective, to follow in his footsteps by joining a Himalayan expedition. However his failure to come to terms with the corrupt working practises of his colleagues leads to their thwarting his ambition. “The Constant Factor” is without doubt one of the most deeply pessimistic films I know. When I first saw it I could hardly believe the ghastliness of its ending. Even though I consider it to be one of the most profound masterworks of cinema I have to steel myself beforehand whenever I bring myself to sharing it with anyone, let alone seeing it by myself. Continue reading

Tadeusz Konwicki – Salto (1965)

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In this rich and subtle dream-play, a man arrives in a small country town and demands sanctuary from an unspecified threat. But who is he, why do people remember him differently, and can he really perform miracles? Many Poles consider this Cybulski’s greatest performance and he’s certainly on riveting form, especially when performing a ‘salto’ folk dance towards the end. Continue reading

Gabriel Mascaro – Boi neon AKA Neon Bull (2015)

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Iremar works at the “Vaquejadas”, a rodeo in the North East of Brazil where two men on horseback try bring down a bull by grabbing its tail. It’s dusty and back-breaking work, but Iremar is a natural vaqueiro feeding, prepping and taking care of the bulls. Home is the truck used to transport the animals from show to show which he shares with his coworkers; Galega, an exotic dancer, truck driver and mother to her spirited and cheeky daughter Cacá, and Zé, his rotund compadre in the bull pen. Together they form a makeshift but close-knit family. But Brazil and the Northeast are changing and the region’s booming clothing industry has stirred new ambitions in Iremar. Swinging in his hammock in the back of the truck, his head is filled with dreams of pattern cutting, sequins and exquisite fabrics as he mentally assembles his latest sexy fashion designs. Continue reading