Jon Bang Carlsen – Hotel of the Stars (1981)

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Along the northern edge of Hollywood on Franklin Avenue, there is a hotel where movie stars used to stay, but whose glory days are long gone. Celebrities no longer go there, and the new guests are dreamers from all over the place who’ve come to LA to pursue a career in acting. “I loved to see myself in Technicolor,” one of them says, recalling his first screen appearance in a street scene. For most of them, the dream of a Hollywood career will forever remain an illusion. They hardly manage to make ends meet by working as extras – during the shoot of this documentary, a number of them were extras in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. Bang Carlsen’s camera obviously gives them an opportunity to show their talent for make-believe – an art that they, for lack of an audience, mainly seem to deploy to keep up their own spirits. In this often-comical, sometimes tragic portrait of some of the hotel’s residents, Hotel of the Stars reveals the wide gap between dream and reality, poverty and success in American society. Continue reading

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Ordet (1955)

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Although The Word deals with a miracle, it is through and through a realistic film—about those who are weak in faith. The hoped-for miracle does not occur until one who has faith, the True Faith, arrives. The action takes place among country folk living in a small, outlying parish on Jutland’s west coast. It pictures the struggle between two different sides of Christian faith—a bright, happy Christianity and its contrast, a dark fanaticism, hostile to life. Continue reading

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Præsidenten AKA The President (1919)

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It perhaps comes as no surprise, given Carl Theodor Dreyer’s lifelong, idealized melancholy over his own unresolved parentage, that the scenario selected for his first film, The President would involve three generations of children conceived out of wedlock, and thematically crystallize on the legacy of their unreconciled paternity in the resolution of their own disparate lives. For Dreyer, this expurgation of such deep-seated trauma was not only manifested in the naïve idea of restoring the virtue and honor of a “fallen” woman (an archetypal surrogate for his own idealized, unwed, biological mother) through transcendence, but also in confronting the innate cruelty of the very institutions that socially (and inequitably) stigmatized such human transgressions through codified notions of morality and class division. It is within this framework that the film’s preface of the aging aristocrat, Franz Victor von Sendlinger (Elith Pio) offering a promissory relationship advice to his son Karl Victor (Halvard Hoff) on the folly of marrying outside (or more specifically, beneath) one’s social class while walking along the grounds of their forbiddingly isolated, dilapidated estate seems especially conducive to the figurative idea of empty, superficial, crumbling institutions and Dreyer’s own symbolic attempts to dismantle them. Continue reading

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Der var engang AKA Once Upon a Time (1922)

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Once upon a Time (a.k.a. Der var engang) is an atypical film for the Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, a departure from his more usual realistic dramas into the realm of fantasy and fairytale. It was the only film that Dreyer made for the independent film producer Sophus Madsen, a Danish film enthusiast whose only other production was Laurids Skands’s all but forgotten Livets Karneval (1923). The film was adapted from a play by Holger Drachmann, written in 1885, that was itself based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale Svinedrengen and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the
Shrew. From the outset, this was conceived as a lavish production, but it soon ran into financial difficulties. Even though some scenes were cut – including an extravagant market sequence – the film still ended up with a 150 per cent overspend on its 90,000
kroner budget. Continue reading

Christian Braad Thomsen – Fassbinder: at elske uden at kræve AKA Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands (2015)

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Thomsen presents previously unseen interview footage recorded with Fassbinder throughout their fifteen-year friendship, which spans exactly the length of his career – their first encounter was at the Berlinale in 1969 where Fassbinder’s debut was famously booed (you can hear the cries of “Awful!” and “Shame!” on the archive footage), and their last was just three weeks before his untimely death.
– Written by Ulf Kjell Gür

“Fassbinder: To Love Without Demands” is based on the new and unseen interview with Fassbinder which is edited in a parallel form with others’ views on Fassbinder, his private life and his ideas about art and life. Continue reading

Jytte Rex – Silkevejen AKA Silk Road (2004)

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What follows Buddha’s quote is a mesmerizing portrait of a terminally ill paintings restorer, Christine (Ellen Hillingsø), whose harrowing reality, lucid dreams and memories of a lover long gone are intertwined into a cinematic equivalent of a bleakly delicate hypnagogic hallucination – the art of dying is taken to a poetic extreme.

As Christine’s inner world merges with the outer world, transforming its very fabric, her consciousness migrates into the ocean of the universe. The past, the present and the future become both eternal and fleeting One. By moving far, far away from the narrative conventions, Jytte Rex (Planetens spejle) creates a melancholic ode to life illuminated through the prism death. Via double and triple superimpositions she establishes a disorienting atmosphere. Continue reading