A director of a television series on the history of cinema, who has been grappling with the screenplay of his first feature film, receives an assignment to oversee the installation of a television relay station in a remote region of Zahedan province, near the Afghanistan border. He has already hired Turkoman tribespeople for his film and selected his filming location. Meanwhile his wife, who is working on her Ph.D. dissertation about the Mongol invasion of Iran, attempts to dissuade him from accepting the assignment. One night, while working on his history of the cinema series, the director fantasizes a diagetic world that consists of clever juxtapositions of his different worlds: the history of cinema, the history of the mongol invasion, his own film idea and his imminent assignment to the desert. Continue reading
Two siblings and an illegitimate love. A father who’s a doctor and several accusations. A family in which no one ever drew a line between what’s moral and what’s legal. Not even when it comes to abortion.
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It’s a non-traditional black and white film based on the 1894 novel by Theodor Fontane. It’s for an audience that is more aware and welcomes something addressed to the intellect, rather than the way the average casual moviegoer sees a film expecting a story handed to him on a silver platter with a beginning, a middle and an end (usually a happy ending). This is not a film for the casual moviegoer or the critic chasing down blockbusters. Director-writer Rainer Werner Fassbinder has said “It’s a film that really only works in the German language.” What makes the film so difficult for an outsider, is that much of Fontane is nuanced only for the German and therefore someone unfamiliar with the finer cultural points or historical facts will have a tough time of it. Fassbinder based the film on the parts of the novel by Theodor Fontane he agreed with (discarding the parts of the book he disagreed with) and did not make it into a topic about a woman as the title would suggest (a debate grew between the film’s star Hanna Schygulla, who wanted to play it as a story about the titular character; thankfully she couldn’t budge Fassbinder off his intended aim to keep it as a societal moral play and as a result we have a film that is full of conviction and as faithful to a book as you can possibly be). Continue reading
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors has often been described as a Carpathian Romeo and Juliet – that is, if Romeo had the tenacity to live after his beloved’s death. Sergei Paradjanov prefaces the tragic tale set in the Carpathian mountains as the land “forgotten by God and men”, and from the austerity of the environment, it is evident that survival comes at a high price. In essence, the story is incidental to the observations of daily peasant life: the Orthodox order of mass, the rites of spring, the rhythm of the sickle cutting the fields. A young man, Ivan (Ivan Nikolaichuk), falls in love with Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova), the daughter of the man who killed his father. As his mother’s only surviving child, he leaves the village to work as a hired laborer to provide for her. However, before he can return to Marichka, she falls to her death in an attempt to rescue an errant lamb. The story then follows Ivan through his descent into despair, marriage to the sensual Palagna (Tatyana Bestayeva), and Palagna’s inevitable betrayal. Continue reading
A woman walks by her home and finally takes a shower – She buy colored fabrics in a trade. A man visiting a post office – Succession of scenic pictures and semi-autonomous fading almost always unexpected. A series of situations or suite, though apparently unrelated, revolve around a thematic development that gives body and drive the story without resorting to the use of an anecdote as plot continuity. Continue reading
Among the most influential films of the postwar era, Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) charts the declining marriage of a couple from England (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) on a trip in the countryside near Naples. More than just the anatomy of a relationship, Rossellini’s masterpiece is a heartrending work of emotion and spirituality. Considered a predecessor to the existentialist works of Michelangelo Antonioni and hailed as a groundbreaking modernist work by the legendary film journal Cahiers du cinéma, Journey to Italy is a breathtaking cinematic benchmark. Continue reading
A sort of philosophical comedy written and directed by Marguerite Duras (with Jean Mascolo and Jean-Marc Turine), starring Axel Bogousslavsky, Daniel Gélin, Tatiana Moukhine, Martine Chevallier, André Dussollier and Pierre Arditi. Continue reading