Nicolas Humbert – Step Across the Border (1990)

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from imdb,

“This film is a snapshot of the life of Fred Frith, an English-born multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improvisor. It finds him in Europe, Japan, and the US, working and playing with a variety of avant garde artists.

There is no narrative, or narrator. The images blend with his music, and visa versa, creating a narrative all their own. His performances, widely varied, reveal a light hearted intensity. In one scene, he uses his violin to ‘sing’ with seagulls and, in another, he conducts a quartet. Most of all, it shows him as a human being whose being is infused with music. It pours out of him in all its varied forms, and he welcomes it all. Continue reading

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

Mark Rappaport – The Vanity Tables of Douglas Sirk (2015)

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A video essay exploring the frequency and meaning of that particular prop in a wide variety of Sirk movies. Is it a device that traps and keeps women in an artificial world with a limited point of view? Or is it a gateway to the past and the future, and a distorted but nevertheless real vision of the roles that woman are forced to play in society? It’s an exploration of the texts and subtexts of commercial films and the subterranean and complicated ways that they affect us and can be read. Continue reading

Leni Riefenstahl – Der Sieg des Glaubens AKA Victory of the Faith (1933)

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Der Sieg des Glaubens (English: The Victory of Faith) is the first documentary directed by Leni Riefenstahl, who was hired despite opposition from Nazi officials that resented employing a woman — and a non-Party member too. Her film recounts the Fifth Party Rally of the Nazi Party, which occurred in Nuremberg from August 30 to September 3 in 1933.

Like her Nazi documentaries of 1935, the short Tag der Freiheit (Day of Liberty) and the classic propaganda feature Triumph of the Will, Der Sieg des Glaubens has no voiceover commentary and few explanatory titles. The activities captured by Riefenstahl’s cameras include the welcoming of foreign diplomats and other politicians at the Nuremberg train station; Adolf Hitler’s arrival at the airport and his meeting with important party members; massive Nazi troop parades; and Hitler’s speech on the tenth anniversary of the National Socialist movement. Continue reading

Frederick Wiseman – Racetrack (1985)

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Synopsis
RACETRACK is about the Belmont Race Track, one of the world’s leading race tracks for thoroughbred racing. The film highlights the training, maintaining and racing of thoroughbred horses. Everyday occurrences are shown: in the backstretch — the grooming, feeding, shoeing, and caring for horses and the preparation for races; at the practice track the various aspects of training, exercising, and timing the horses; at the paddock — the pre-race presentation of the horses; and in the grandstand — betting and watching the races. The film also has sequences showing the variety of work done by trainers, jockeys, jockey agents, grooms, hot walkers, stable hands, and veterinarians. Continue reading

Allie Light & Irving Saraf – In the Shadow of the Stars (1991)

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Quote:
Oscar-winning documentary covering the performers who are often overlooked when people go to the opera. “In the shadow of the stars” is basically referring to the people performing their jobs, hoping for their big breaks while not getting that much attention in their current positions. There’s no question that this is a pretty interesting documentary but I think the people are going to be most effected by it are those actual opera fans or those who are in the same position as the people here and can connect with them. I think the best thing that the film has going for it is that it actually makes you familiar with some of the lesser known people who work. I thought it was fascinating hearing from people who have been waiting years for their big break and we get to hear the daily drama that goes on. This could be rehearsals where they’re not working out as well as they hoped or it could be in their personal lives where the stress is simply making things bad at home. Throughout the picture we’re introduced to several people and all of them discuss their careers and lives. Some of the stories get repeated to the point where you feel as if you’re hearing it over and over but for the most part the film keeps you drawn in and entertained. Continue reading

Frederick Wiseman – Basic Training (1971)

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Quote:
BASIC TRAINING follows a company of draftees and enlisted men through the nine weeks of the basic training cycle. The varieties of training techniques used by the army in converting civilians to soldiers are illustrated in scenes of drills, M-16 and bayonet use, a gas chamber, mines, night crawls, an infiltration course and the many forms of ideological training familiar to millions of men and women who have served in the armed forces. Continue reading