Peter Brosens & Dorjkhandyn Turmunkh – State of Dogs (1998)


A cinematic poem based on the Mongolian belief that when dogs die, they are reborn as humans. At least, that’s what humans say. What do dogs think? The film introduces us to Baasar, a stray dog, before and after his death… Documentary or fiction? The pictures and sound are derived from reality, so surely it must be a documentary, but a particularly philosophical and poetic one. Not only does this film offer a lively, inspired commentary on the issue of stray animals in the urban environment, it invites us to contemplate the mystery of life and the complexity of reality. A universal parable on destiny, illustrated by Mongolian folklore. Continue reading

Carlos Saura – Goya en Burdeos AKA Goya in Bordeaux (1999)


Francisco Goya (1746-1828), deaf and ill, lives the last years of his life in voluntary exile in Bordeaux, a Liberal protesting the oppressive rule of Ferdinand VII. He’s living with his much younger wife Leocadia and their daughter Rosario. He continues to paint at night, and in flashbacks stirred by conversations with his daughter, by awful headaches, and by the befuddlement of age, he relives key times in his life, particularly his relationship with the Duchess of Alba, his discovery of how he wanted to paint (insight provided by Velázquez’s work), and his lifelong celebration of the imagination. Throughout, his reveries become tableaux of his paintings. Continue reading

Raoul Ruiz – Ce jour-là AKA That Day (2003)


Auspiciously set in the nebulous and indeterminate milieu of “Switzerland, in the near future”, Raoul Ruiz’s eccentric, surreal fable opens to the shot of an abstracted and dotty young woman named Livia (Elsa Zylberstein) sitting on a park bench overlooking a fog obscured dirt road that is curiously located near the entrance of the San Michelle mental health institution. While jotting down a series of random, fleeting thoughts into her journal, she meets a cyclist who is abruptly thrown from his bicycle and, convinced that he is an angel (since, as her idiosyncratic theory goes, all angels on earth have fallen), proceeds to explain that tomorrow is destined to be the best day of her life, or rather – as she corrects herself – the most important day, which she comes to realize is not the same thing. Soon after the encounter, Livia is whisked away by her faithful and devoted servant Treffle (Jean-François Balmer) and brought home to the family’s country estate where a crowd of snide and unscrupulously calculating relatives amass near the front steps awaiting her father, Harald’s (Michel Piccoli) return home to celebrate his birthday. Continue reading

Ralf Kirsten – Käthe Kollwitz (1986)


One dramatic event marked the life of the great German artist in particular. At the beginning of the First World War she was already world famous for her etchings, lithographs, carvings and drawings. To her horror, her youngest son, Peter, volunteered to go to war. Within a few weeks she received the dreadful news Peter fell in Flanders. Käthe Kollwitz, who had always sided with the common people, became a committed pacifist and even a socialist. She lived with her husband, a doctor to the poor, in the Berlin working-class quarter of Prenzlauer Berg, where a central square is now named after her. The bloody end of the November Revolution destroyed her hope for swift improvements in living conditions, but strengthened her convictions. The excellently cast DEFA film shows impressive images from the life of a woman who was later to be a vehement foe of National Socialism and whose work still impresses the world today. Continue reading

Hirokazu Koreeda – Umi yori mo mada fukaku AKA After the Storm (2016)


A prize-winning author that wastes his money on gambling struggles to take back control of his existence as his aging mother and ex-wife move on with their lives, until a stormy summer night offers him a chance to bond with his young son once again.

Tara Judah wrote:
From sentiment to scenario and across his characters, places, imagery and impressions, Kore-eda’s films have a melancholic tonality that represents the aching of the human soul.

Familiar themes are revisited here including; broken families, the problem of the patriarch, strained relationships between fathers and sons, coming to terms with grief, as well as the unutterable bond that is created and strengthened through taking time to share a meal together. Continue reading

Jennifer Montgomery – Art for Teachers of Children (1995)


Jennifer, an intelligent but insecure 14-year-old student at a boarding school, seduces her married dormitory counselor, a photographer who has offered to teach her about his art and winds up shooting her in the nude. She is naive, and he manipulates her into an affair that eventually is discovered. Years later, as the photographer is being investigated by the FBI, the adult woman remembers her first love as a case of herself watching the artist who watched her. Continue reading