Ben Hopkins – 37 Uses For A Dead Sheep (2006)

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portrait of the Kirghiz tribe, living a quasi-Iron Age existence in one of the remotest places on earth.

37 Uses For A Dead Sheep is a documentary with a sense of humour. However, as he recounts the eventful history of Central Asian tribe the Pamir Kirghiz, director Ben Hopkins stays on the right side of Borat-style ethnic mockery, treating his subjects with affection and esteem. He also turns a few of them into film stars in a range of reconstructions that entertainingly reveal the community’s journey over the last century or so.

Evocative title, that. Could the film itself possibly match it? Director Ben Hopkins finds the Pamir Kirghiz, a small Central-Asian tribe now living in eastern Turkey, and works together with them to craft a fleet-footed, intriguingly pomo documentary about this little-known group of nomads. Hopkins uses the tribes people to reenact moments from their history (shot in grainy 16mm), then shoots himself shooting them, then interviews them about it, while intercutting it all with images of their life today, in a village the Turkish government pretty much settled just for them. Oh yeah, there’s also a framing device in which the director talks to an old Kirghiz man about—you guessed it—all the things they can do with a dead sheep. It’s all very meta, but once Hopkins reveals the odd backstory of this people, pingponging between the Great Powers (Russia, China, the U.K.) who controlled their homeland at various times, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate approach to this material. The result is an inventive look at some truly unwitting victims of history’s relentless, unforgiving march. Continue reading

Hal Hartley – The Book of Life (1998)

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from movie martyr:

Set on the eve of the millennium (December, 31, 1999), Hal Hartley’s The Book of Life manages to send up the notion of the apocalypse in Hartley’s typically offbeat way. The film, which is shot on digital video, follow Jesus (Martin Donovan) as he wanders around Manhattan, pondering whether or not he should unleash his judgment upon the world. He is accompanied by Magdalena (P.J. Harvey) who is his personal assistant and confidante. In a little over an hour, with only about a half dozen main characters and only the barest special effects, Hartley weaves a fugue of hope, resignation, and a generalized sense of millennial tension. Few writers are better than Hartley at spinning memorable dialogue, and his stuff here is as good as anything that he’s turned out. For example, when Jesus calls Lucifer (Thomas Jay Ryan) on his cell phone, he greets him with a simple, “It’s me…” Hartley always underplays things, even when the world’s about to end. Continue reading

Andrzej Zulawski – Fidelite (2000)

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Quote:
“Taking his cue from “La Princesse de Cleves”, France’s first serious historical novel, director Andrzej Zulawski boots it into the modern world and filters this story of fidelity versus desire through an ever-earnest – and very modish – photographer (Sophie Marceau) who is hired by a sleaze-merchant to add class to one of his scandal-sheets. She falls for the charming gaucheness of an editor (Pascal Greggory) but becomes hooked on a blunt, loutish photographer who looks unnervingly like a perfectly-realised mix of Liam and Noel Gallagher.” (Reviewed by Michael Thomson – bbc.co.uk/films/2000/11/28/la_fidelite_2000_review.shtml) Continue reading

Ingo Niermann & Erick Niedling – The Future of Art (2011)

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A film that came with a book in the same name, The Future of Art; A manual.
The film contains documentary and interviews on acclaimed artists about the direction of art towards the future.

with:

Marina Abramovic
Thomas Bayrle
Olaf Breuning
Genesis and lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge
Olafur Elaisson
Harald Falckenberg
Boris Groys
Damien Hirst
Gregor Jansen
Terence Koh
Gabriel Von Loebell
Marcos Lutyens
Philomene Magers
Antje Majewski
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Thomas Olbricht
Friedrich Petzel
Tobias Rehberger
Hans Georg Wagner
Continue reading

Apichatpong Weerasethakul – Loong Boonmee raleuk chat AKA Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

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Quote:
Confession: my only previous exposure to Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai director who’s one of the most lauded auteurs currently working, was a DVD copy of Tropical Malady, which frankly bored my pants off. Watching Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives on the big screen at the New York Film Festival’s Alice Tully Hall, it occurred to me almost immediately that waiting to see anything by Weerasethakul on DVD is a terrible idea. For Uncle Boonmee, the large theater screen works like a window onto a bigger world populated by larger-than-actual-size memories and myths. And the photography is not the kind of crisp, high-contrast work that translates well to home video (though Blu-ray might do OK by it) — shots taken within the Thai jungle, for instance, are unfailingly dense and moody, with different and ever-darker shades of green layered on top of each other like thick brush strokes in an oil painting. Sometimes it feels as if the whole film were shot at twilight, or using day-for-night shooting and processing trickery. Continue reading

Asghar Farhadi – Jodaeiye Nader az Simin aka A Separation (2011)

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THE GUARDIAN review (contains plot details):

An unhappily married couple break up in this complex, painful, fascinating Iranian drama by writer-director Asghar Farhadi, with explosive results that expose a network of personal and social faultlines. A Separation is a portrait of a fractured relationship and an examination of theocracy, domestic rule and the politics of sex and class – and it reveals a terrible, pervasive sadness that seems to well up through the asphalt and the brickwork. In its depiction of national alienation in Iran, it’s comparable to the work of Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. But there is a distinct western strand. The film shows a middle-class household under siege from an angry outsider; there are semi-unsolved mysteries, angry confrontations and family burdens: an ageing parent and two children from warring camps appearing to make friends. All these things surely show the influence of Michael Haneke’s 2005 film Hidden. Farhadi, like Haneke, takes a scalpel to his bourgeois homeland. Continue reading

Jean-Marc Vallée – Café de Flore (2011)

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From IMDb :

A love story between a man and woman. And between a mother and her son. A mystical and fantastical odyssey on love.

From Toronto International Film Festival official website :

*** This description contains spoilers ***

Jean-Marc Vallée returns to French-language filmmaking with this powerful and unconventional love story that weaves together two disparate narratives to create a tale of emotion and destiny. The stories center on a devoted mother (Vanessa Paradis) of a young boy with Down syndrome in 1969 Paris, and a successful DJ (Kevin Parent) who is going through an emotional divorce in present-day Montreal. Continue reading