Alain Cavalier – Un étrange voyage AKA On the Track (1981)

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Synopsis
A father-daughter relationship is melded, strained, and deepened by a shared angst: the grandmother in the family left her home by train and never arrived at her destination. The father Pierre (Jean Rochefort) is distraught that the police could basically dismiss the issue as inexplicable, and he decides to retrace on foot the voyage his mother should have made. His daughter Amelie (Camille de Casablanca) goes with him, and the story evolves as the two walk along the train tracks, searching in the nearby terrain and bushes for any evidence that might point to what happened. Along the way, their once antagonistic and distanced relationship (Amelie is a student, her father is a picture-restorer) begins to work itself out… Continue reading

Pere Portabella – Umbracle (1970)

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Pere Portabella (b. 1929, Barcelona) is a veteran Spanish filmmaker whose narrative features—rich in interludes, plot diversions, atmosphere, and unexpected synchronies between sight and sound—limn the avant-garde and expand the expressive potential of cinema. Portabella, who began his cinematic career as a producer of fiction films implicitly critical of General Francisco Franco, had his passport revoked when Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana (1961), which he helped to make, “embarrassed” Spain at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962. When democracy returned to Spain, Portabella served as a senator in the Catalan government. However, throughout his various careers, Portabella continued to make cinema, investigating meaning in the moving image and flexing the notion of genre—particularly for horror films, fantasy films, and thrillers. Continue reading

Jean-Marie Straub – Schakale und Araber (2011)

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Description: Based on Kafka’s short story:

A European traveler from the North, accompanied by Arab guides, is camped in the desert. When night falls, and the Arabs are at a distance, the traveler is accosted by talking jackals. The jackals speak of an age-old hatred for Arabs, whom they associate with uncleanliness. They relate a belief passed down from their ancestors, that a man such as the protagonist would be the one to “end the quarrel which divides the world in two”. The jackals attempt to enlist the traveler’s assistance in destroying them, offering him old rusted scissors with which to slit the throats of the Arabs. (en.wikipedia.org) Continue reading

Chantal Akerman – Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge…: Portrait d’une jeune fille de la fin des années 60 à Bruxelles (#1.3) (1994)

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Dave McDougall at MUBI.com

Last Monday night, MoMA played two installments from the series “Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge…”, a series of one-hour television episodes “in which French directors were asked to contribute films based on their recollections of adolescence” (BFI). The first episode shown was Chantal Akerman’s Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 1960s in Brussels.

Akerman’s episode is an achievement of an entirely different level. It moves beyond being one of the great coming-of-age films; it is simply one of the great films. A moving, multifaceted, and magical hour, presented with honesty and subtle artistry. Continue reading

Chantal Akerman – Saute ma ville AKA Blow up my town (1968)

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I saw this first film by Ackerman on french channel Arte and I was fascinated by its simplicity of conception and execution. Ackerman gives a wonderfully quiet example of small, no-budget, personal short film which can be a lesson for any young and fresh student of film or anyone with a great passion( but not much means) for film-making and recording the world with a camera. young Ackerman plays in the film and from the first minutes you get the mood and the means together as the soundtrack of the film is solely composed of constant humming of some tune by -supposedly- the main character who is a lonely girl living in an apartment. This is one of the most ingenious approaches to the composition of film music I have ever heard! and you wonder if it has been repeated again. We follow the girl entering the building, up the stairs and into her small kitchen and very soon realize that we will only see HER. She keeps humming and even makes appropriate noises when attending to things in the kitchen. The obsession with the kitchen leaves one wondering ” Can a kitchen really drive someone mad?”. Here domestic life of a lonely woman seems like an unbearable and crushing prison with no hope of redemption( a theme that Ackerman returns to it later with great force).When the girls cooks and cleans and gradually makes a mess of everything you get a comical view of quiet breakdown rarely seen. Fixed camera position is in accord with a claustrophobic mood and also relates to a documentary style camera which the film emulates to some extent. This is a film about what we may -and usually will- call domestic hell ,though it never loses sight of intrinsic humor of the situation. I love Ackerman’s performance and her determination to be a filmmaker, standing on her own feet and making an amateur film a must-see. Continue reading

Chantal Akerman – Toute une nuit AKA A whole night (1982)

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Toute une nuit presents a series of brief, disconnected, near silent vignettes that capture the inherently intimate episodes that transpire throughout the course of human relationships. A woman (Aurore Clement) deliberates on placing a telephone call to an absent lover before deciding to hail a taxicab to his apartment. A man and a woman sitting at adjacent tables of an anonymous bar exchange reluctant, fleeting glances as they wait in vain for their respective lovers to arrive, and eventually succumb to an impulsive, awkward embrace. An unconcerned young woman smokes a cigarette as she sits in a diner with two young men before being confronted to choose between them. A hurried man misses an opportunity to meet his lover outside her home. A middle-aged couple awaken to the noise of an off-the-air television set and decide to go out for the evening. A woman hurriedly packs her belongings into a suitcase and sneaks out of the apartment only to return home at dawn to her oblivious, sleeping husband. Lovers consummate their relationship or part to their separate ways at entrances and stairwells of impersonal apartment buildings. Continue reading