John Ford – The Searchers [+Extras] (1956)

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SYNOPSIS:
Ethan Edwards, returned from the Civil War to the Texas ranch of his brother, hopes to find a home with his family and to be near the woman he obviously but secretly loves. But a Comanche raid destroys these plans, and Ethan sets out, along with his 1/8 Indian nephew Martin, on a years-long journey to find the niece kidnapped by the Indians under Chief Scar. But as the quest goes on, Martin begins to realize that his uncle’s hatred for the Indians is beginning to spill over onto his now-assimilated niece. Martin becomes uncertain whether Ethan plans to rescue Debbie… or kill her. Continue reading

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John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

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The Grapes of Wrath tells the powerful story of the Joad family’s trek from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the fertile but futile fields of California in the early 1930s. Driven by the live rhythms of the Joel Rafael Band, this heart-wrenching award- winning adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel finds its timeless heart in the generous spirit of the common man. Continue reading

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea – Memorias del subdesarrollo AKA Memories of Underdevelopment (1968)

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Plot Synopsis
Sergio, a wealthy bourgeois aspiring writer, decides to stay in Cuba even though his wife and friends flee to Miami. Sergio looks back over the changes in Cuba, from the Castro Revolution to the missile crisis, the effect of living in an underdeveloped country, and his relations with his girlfriends Elena and Hanna. Memories of Underdevelopment is a complex character study of alienation during the turmoil of social changes. The film is told in a highly subjective point of view through a fragmented narrative that remembles the way memories function. Continue reading

Mikio Naruse – Tsuma yo bara no yô ni AKA Wife! Be Like a Rose! (1935)

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The effervescent and charming Chiba Sachiko (Naruse’s wife at the time) plays Kimiko, the bold daughter who travels to the countryside to find her estranged father to seek his consent for her forthcoming marriage . When Kimiko discovers that her father has taken up with a young geisha and is just as difficult as ever, her journey forces her to reconsider her ideas about familial ties. The film was Naruse’s biggest success to date and one of his warmest films. WIFE, BE LIKE A ROSE! won first place in Kinema Junpo that year and became one of the exceedingly rare Naruse films to earn distribution in the US. Continue reading

Sergei M. Eisenstein – Aleksandr Nevskiy [+Extras] (1938)

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From Criterion Collection:

Eisenstein drew on history, Russian folk narratives, and the techniques of Walt Disney to create this broadly painted epic of Russian resilience. This story of Teutonic knights vanquished by Prince Alexander Nevsky’s tactical brilliance resonated deeply with a Soviet Union concerned with the rise of Nazi Germany. Widely imitated—most notably by Laurence Olivier’s Battle of Agincourt re-creation for Henry V —the Battle on the Ice scene remains one of the most famous audio-visual experiments in film history, perfectly blending action with the rousing score of Sergei Prokofiev. Continue reading

Hiroshi Shimizu – Tokyo no eiyu AKA A Hero of Tokyo (1935)

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“This late silent film is little more than an hour long, and achieves a narrative concentration and emotional intensity which place it among the neglected gems of the Japanese cinema of the 1930s. The story focuses on the widower Nemoto, ostensibly a businessman, who has one son, Kanichi, the hero of the title. Nemoto remarries; his new wife is a widow with a son and daughter of her own. However, Nemoto’s business turns out to be out a shady scam, and he disappears, leaving his wife to raise the three children alone. In order to support the family, she is obliged to become a bar hostess. She conceals this shameful employment from the children, but the truth comes out years later, after her daughter is rejected by her husband’s family when they investigate her background. The film contains powerful performances from Mitsugu Fujii, here making the last of his regular appearances for Shimizu, and Mitsuko Yoshikawa, a specialist in the haha-mono (“mother-film”) genre. Continue reading

Lino Brocka – Insiang (1976)

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Quote:
Lino Brocka’s films combine popular melodrama, political import, and intense realism with a vivid, economical style. Made on impossibly low budgets on the fringes of the Philippine film industry, his movies have an urgency and immediacy that spring both from Brocka’s burning ideological commitments (he was one of the most outspoken critics of the Marcos regime) and his resourceful, imaginative approach to the exigencies of borderline production. Set in the Manila slums, this 1976 effort is centered on a teenage girl struggling to stay afloat in the overwhelming, dehumanizing poverty that surrounds her. Her mother, who operates a tiny fish market, takes in a local hood as a lover, but the thuggish pretty-boy is clearly more interested in Insiang. After he rapes her (in a single-take sequence astonishing in its curtness and brutality), Insiang plans her revenge–a revenge that is also a revolution against the unseen government that endorses the system of exploitation. With Hilda Koronel. Continue reading

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