Martina Kudlácek – Im Spiegel der Maya Deren AKA In the mirror of Maya Deren (2002)

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With IN THE MIRROR OF MAYA DEREN, documentary filmmaker Martina Kudlácek has fashioned not only fascinating portrait of a groundbreaking and influential artist, but a pitch-perfect introduction to her strikingly beautiful and poetic body of work. Crowned “Fellini and Bergman wrapped in one gloriously possessed body” by the L.A. Weekly, Maya Deren is arguably the most important and innovative avant-garde filmmaker in the history of American cinema. Using locations from the Hollywood hills to Haiti, Deren made such mesmerizing films as AT LAND, RITUAL IN TRANSFIGURED TIME and her masterpiece MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON Continue reading

Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz – Ich seh, Ich seh AKA Goodnight Mommy (2014)

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In the heat of the summer. A lonesome house in the countryside between woods and corn fields. Nine-year-old twin brothers are waiting for their mother. When she comes home, bandaged after cosmetic surgery, nothing is like before. The children start to doubt that this woman is actually their mother. It emerges an existential struggle for identity and fundamental trust. Continue reading

Johannes Holzhausen – Das große Museum AKA The Great Museum (2014)

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The documentary THE GREAT MUSEUM is a curious, witty and humorous peek behind the scenes at a world-famous cultural institution. Director Johannes Holzhausen and his team spent more than two years gathering material at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Shot in the attentive style of direct cinema – with no off-screen commentary, no interviews and no background music – the film observes the various processes involved in creating a perfect setting for art. From the managing director to the cleaning services team, from the carriers to the art historians, the staff members at the museum are all interdependent cogs in the same machine. Continue reading

Ulrich Seidl – Im Keller AKA In the Basement (2014)

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In the Basement (Im Keller) is a 2014 Austrian documentary film directed by Ulrich Seidl about people and their obsessions, and what they do in their basements in their free time. It was part of the Out of Competition section at the 71st Venice International Film Festival.

Corpulent sex slaves, tuba-playing Nazi obsessives, reborn doll fantasists — just a regular stroll through the neighborhood, then, for patented guru of the grotesque Ulrich Seidl, who makes an intriguing return to documentary filmmaking with “In the Basement.” Grabby and grubby in equal measure, this meticulously composed trawl through the contents of several middle-class Austrians’ cellars (a space, according to Seidl, that his countrymen traditionally give over to their most personal hobbies) yields more than a few startling discoveries. Continue reading

Jessica Hausner – Amour Fou (2014)

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Berlin, the Romantic Era. Young poet Heinrich wishes to conquer the inevitability of death through love, yet is unable to convince his sceptical cousin Marie to join him in a suicide pact. It is whilst coming to terms with this refusal, ineffably distressed by his cousin’s insensitivity to the depth of his feelings, that Heinrich meets Henriette, the wife of a business acquaintance. Heinrich’s subsequent offer to the beguiling young woman at first holds scant appeal, that is until Henriette discovers she is suffering from a terminal illness. AMOUR FOU is a “romantic comedy” based loosely on the suicide of the poet Henrich von Kleist in 1811. Continue reading

Michael Haneke – Benny’s Video (1992)

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The second part of Haneke’s “glaciation trilogy” begins with a buzz and a bang: the white noise of a television screen snow shower and then the bang of a pig being shot on the subsequent home video. Benny’s Video is the most accessible film of the trilogy, but still never departs from Haneke’s powerful concoction of brutal images and laconic montage. Benny is a neglected son of rich parents in Vienna. He spends his days and nights in his room lost in a cobweb of video equipment, cameras, monitors and editing consoles. He keeps his shades drawn at all times and experiences the outside world mediated through the camcorders he has set up outside his windows. He obsessively reviews the farmyard killing of a pig in forward and reverse, slow motion and freeze-frame. Intermittently, he flips through channels full of news on neo-nazi killings, toy commercials, war films and reports on the incipient war in Yugoslavia. One day he meets a girl at the video store and invites her back to his empty house. He shows her the stun-gun used to kill the pig and shoots her with it. The girl’s death is shot visually out of the camera’s frame although the audience is privy to excruciating minutes of screams and whimpers. In the end, Benny foils his parents’ perversely cynical attempt to cover up the murder. Continue reading