Allan King – Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company (2005)

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Finally, King expands his exploration of the aging process with Memory for Max, Claire, Ida, and Company, an intimate personal diary for eight patients suffering from dementia and memory loss at the Baycrest Geriatric Health Care System. Whereas Dying at Grace documented patients succumbing to the inevitable, Memory focuses on the terrifying doubts, palpable relationships, and relentless patterns of the individual patient and their fragile grip on reality. The titular trio makes up a close-knit group linked by emotional necessity, and Memory delves deep into the haunting alienation each feels when one unexpectedly dies, and the others have to relive the tragic news over and over again. The process is difficult to watch, but in a final coup de grace, King upends stereotypes about the sick and aged by never abandoning them no matter how difficult the situation, his camera a tracker of the small, delicate emotions cinema usually can’t recreate. Continue reading

Albert Serra – El Senyor ha fet en mi meravelles AKA The Lord Worked Wonders in Me (2011)

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The original dvdr announce wrote:
This filmic exchange is based on two works that reflect on the way each director films, on the crew and the actors, on the way they see and make cinema. Albert Serra took the characters of Honor de Cavalleria and his regular team of collaborators to follow in the steps of Quixote. Lisandro Alonso returned to La Pampa province to film his work, for which he recalls Misael Saavedra, the lead of his first film, La Libertad. Continue reading

Allan King – Come on Children (1973)

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For Come on Children, from 1972, King returns to the lives of troubled Toronto youths, but this time he creates the environment of study himself. After doing extensive interviews with local teenagers, King sent 10 of his subjects on a country retreat to a farmhouse where they could live collectively without the interference of adults, hierarchies, or rules. Each of the teens, ranging in age from 13 to 18, gets a musical introduction from one of the more charismatic subjects, a pimply ex-drug addict named John. His Dylan-esque folk narration gives Come on Children a reflexive identity, the best example his last lyric, “I’m not sure what the film’s about, but I hope the movie makes you feel that you wished you were here.” These kids understand the camera’s perspective, but that doesn’t stop them from unveiling a disturbing mixture of naiveté and hardnosed cynicism at the adult life waiting around the corner. Once again, King uses a collective set piece—a visit from everyone’s parents to the farmhouse—to show the dynamic drama breathing through the core of every conversation. If Come on Children is less successful at engaging the viewer’s sympathies, it’s because the Vietnam-era teens don’t see much to look forward to, an ideology King never sugarcoats. Continue reading

Robert Fischer – The Cinema and its Double – Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s ‘Despair’ Revisited (2011)

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This absolutely top-notch documentary by Robert Fischer is a fascinating look back at not just the film in question, but Fassbinder’s meteoric career which ended all too soon with his untimely death. Archival footage of Fassbinder is utilized (including several fascinating snippets culled from interviews he did at the disastrous Cannes premiere of Despair), as well as many others involved in the film and its release. Even if you’re not a particular fan of Despair, or even in fact of Fassbinder, this is stellar documentary filmmaking and is an intriguing look at one of the most enigmatic masters of the New German Cinema. Continue reading

Allan King – Dying at Grace (2003)

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After two decades of fiction films and television docs, King set out to address his own aging with an ambitious project charting the final months of five patients on the palliative care unit in Toronto’s Grace Health Care Centre. The result is King’s masterpiece, 2003’s Dying at Grace, a cinematic experience like no other, one that’s unequivocally devoted to examining the slow and methodical process of death. As with all of King’s films, the opening shot is incredibly pertinent to his end goals, and Dying at Grace is no different. As the opening credits roll, King follows the transfer of recently deceased body from a patient’s room to the morgue, as if to immediately display death as a forgone conclusion. King then introduces each cancer-stricken subject, first a rapidly deteriorating diabetic named Carmela Nardone, then Joyce Bone, Eda Simac, Lloyd Greenaway, and finally hard living ex-con Richard Pollard. Using the nightly nurse reports of each patient’s condition as a keen narrator, King constructs a lengthy procedural on the nuances of death, the deeply touching moments between family members and patient, and finally the staggering silence during the final moments of these people’s lives. Continue reading

Silvio Tendler – Os Anos JK – Uma Trajetoria Politica AKA The JK Years – A Political History (1980)

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PLOT SYNOPSIS
Documentary about Brazilian history, from 1945 until the 70s, focusing on president Juscelino Kubitschek, his political rise, his philosophy of economical development, his gigantic project of constructing a new capital city for the country, Brasília, in the middle of the jungle, and his last years, after the military takeover, when he was deprived of his political rights and went into a temporary exile. Continue reading

Werner Herzog & Dmitry Vasyukov – Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)

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From directors Dmitry Vasyukov and Werner Herzog – and thanks to DVD distribution from Second Sight – comes 2010 feature documentary Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010), an affectionate look at the lives of those who live and work in the remote Siberian wilderness. Herzog has produced some extraordinary factual films over the past two decades, and whilst Happy People may not quite reach the same heights of awe-inspiring beauty of Encounters at the End of the World (2007), it certainly sits well within the unique director’s oeuvre. Continue reading