Roberto Rossellini – Viaggio in Italia AKA Journey to Italy [+ Extras] (1954)

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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

Haolun Shu – No. 89 Shimen Road [+Extra] (2010)

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In the late 1980’s Shanghai, a 16 year-old boy, Xiaoli, comes of age surrounded by his neighbors and grandfather. His best friend is a girl named Lanmi, a couple years older than him. But Lanmi slowly drifts away from him, lured by the new opportunities which come as China opens up to foreign goods and businessmen. At the same time, the 1989 events force Xiaoli to grow up and to let go of his teenage dreams. A film that poignantly depicts the struggle of a country confronted with a new order. It is also a personal and touching view of a world that no longer exist. Continue reading

Miklós Jancsó – Szörnyek évadja AKA Season of Monsters (1987)

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Zoltai (Andras Balint) is a Hungarian professor who returns home after a visit to the United States. Following a television interview, he commits suicide and leaves a note for his longtime friend Dr. Bardocz (Gyorgy Cserhalmi).The doctor and Zoltai’s colleague Komindi (Jozsef Madaras) join the police in investigating what drove the man to suicide in this surrealistic drama. Continue reading

Ildikó Enyedi – Az én XX. századom AKA My Twentieth Century [+extra] (1989)

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Synopsis:
Dorothy Segda essays three roles in the Hungarian-made My 20th Century. The film begins with the birth of twin girls to a Budapest mother (Dorothy Segda) in 1880. Orphaned early on, the girls are forced to sell matches on the streets until both are adopted by two separate families. Flash forward to 1900: Having lost track of one another, the grown-up twins take separate compartments on the Orient Express. One of the girls (Segda again) has become the pampered mistress of a wealthy man; the other (Segda yet again) is a bomb-wielding anarchist. Director Ildiko Enyedi evidently intended My 20th Century as an allegorical statement concerning the status of women in the modern mechanical age. The experiences of the twins are interspersed with shots of Thomas Edison (Peter Andorai), whom we see at the beginning of the film perfecting his incandescent light bulb on the very day that the sisters are born. The more technological advances made by Edison, the more confused the twins become in establishing their own roles in an advancing civilization. Adroitly avoiding cut-and-dried symbolism, Ildiko Enyedi keeps the audience wondering what she’s up to by including such surrealistic vignettes as a caged chimpanzee recounting the day of his capture! Continue reading

Manoel de Oliveira – Acto da Primavera AKA Rite of Spring (1963)

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Oliveira returned to the center of Portugal’s film scene in the 1960s with Acto da Primavera (Rite of spring; 1963), a work that marks a significant change in the director’s trajectory and that initiates some of the cinematic strategies that he would develop more fully in later films. In Acto da Primavera, Oliveira offers a version of a popular representation of the Passion of Christ, enacted by members of a rural community in northern Portugal, derived from the Auto da Paixão de Jesus Cristo (1559), by Francisco Vaz de Guimarães. He came across the annual Easter drama in the small town of Curalha when he was looking for locations for “O Pão,” and he was so taken by it that he wanted to return and register it on film. Continue reading

Jun Ichikawa – Tony Takitani (2004)

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Alone and self-sufficient since childhood, Tony shuns emotions as illogical and immature. After finding his true vocation as a technical illustrator, he becomes fascinated with Eiko, whom he marries. His life changes, he feels vibrantly alive, and for the first time, he understands and fears loneliness. But when Eiko’s all consuming obsession for designer clothes ends in tragedy, Tony finds himself alone again, sitting in his wife’s closet, gazing at her treasured couture pieces, the whispering ghosts of her soul. Finally, Tony places an ad in the paper searching for a woman who fits Eiko’s measurements perfectly. Continue reading