Raoul Ruiz – El realismo socialista AKA Socialist Realism (1973)

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Quote:
A people’s court dictates that a laborer kept some tools for himself and thus deserves derision. “But, can’t we improve?” he asks, without blushing, at the moment they decide his expulsion. The story of the laborer that becomes more and more conservative runs along with another one about a conservative publicist who thinks he can foresee a solution by embracing the revolutionary cause; and what relates both reverse paths is Raúl Ruiz’s systemic pleasure for paradoxes. El realismo socialista is not a politic film but a film about politics, rough and uncomfortable in its will to demolish mythologies at the time they were being generated. These 70s Ruiz is showing are not only not glorious, but he’s also guessing they never will be, almost prophesizing the end of that (fake) utopia, all in this film that works as a parallel story to the great Palomita blanca. Oscillating between documentary record and fiction –the concept key reveals itself, or closes the film’s door, towards the end–, and with a notorious use of improvisation, Ruiz seems to confirm what he once said: “The problem with an iron script is that it gets rusty”. Continue reading

Michael Mann – The Jericho Mile (1979)

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by Hal Erickson
Director Michael Mann co-wrote the teleplay for The Jericho Mile with Patrick J. Nolan. Peter Strauss stars as “Rain” Murphy, serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for first-degree murder. To break up the boredom of prison life, Murphy begins running laps around the prison recreation track. Prison officials take notice when Murphy runs a mile in less than four minutes. They lobby to enter Murphy into the Olympics, an act of largesse that not only pulls Murphy out of his misanthropy but also helps to unify his racially divided fellow prisoners. Originally telecast March 18, 1979, The Jericho Mile was filmed on location at Folsom Prison, with several inmates playing small roles–and talking the talk of prisoners, never mind the TV censors. Continue reading

Frank Perry – Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970)

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Review by Michael Costello

Frank Perry’s bleak study of the lot of a beleaguered Manhattan housewife features three excellent performances. Carrie Snodgress stars as the wife of a lawyer (Richard Benjamin) whose unbearable status-anxiety drives her into the arms of an equally neurotic emotional sadist (Frank Langella). Made during the nascent days of the women’s movement, the film is a strident and simplistic take on the woman-as-victim, yet in some scenes captures the miserable details of this woman’s life with such precision and vividness, that it still has residual power. Benjamin’s overbearing lawyer is memorable as one of the most irritating characters ever to appear onscreen, and in his insane hunger for social status, he’s something of a precursor to American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Snodgress is so brilliantly effective in her Academy Award-nominated performance, that it becomes painful to watch what amounts to the torture of her passive, emotionally abused housewife. As a narcissistic womanizer with an amazingly well-modulated voice, Langella is also exceptional, and his subsequent 15 minutes as a sex symbol speaks volumes about how differently women saw themselves at the time. While the film’s failure to examine these characters in greater depth, and the director’s lack of vision ultimately leaves one unsatisfied, it remains a provocative work which undoubtedly still speaks to the plight of many women. Continue reading

Louis Delluc – Fièvre (1921)

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Synopsis:
Louis Delluc was one of the most important silent pioneers in France and probably one of the first persons in that country who thought of the cinema as an Art. He was part of group called the “French Impressionist School” ( which also included Epstein, Abel Gance, Marcel L’Herbier and Germaine Dulac ) and was himself one of the first and most influential French film critics. Unfortunately Louis Delluc had a short career dying very young at the age of 33 from tuberculosis, denying the French and the rest of the whole world, his mastery of film and future accomplishments. Continue reading

Agnès Varda – Documenteur (1981)

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Documenteur, Agnès Varda’s companion piece and follow-up to her documentary Mur murs, shares with it a filming location and a similarly punning title (a menteur is a liar, in French). But the similarities end there: while Mur murs is a more or less straightforward film that purports to document the murals, the artists who created them, and the effect the pictures have on the neighborhoods surrounding them, Documenteur, which includes shots of some of those same murals and has scenes set in those same neighborhoods, is, by its own admission, “an emotion picture.” Neither pure fictional feature film nor documentary, it’s perhaps best described as a documentary with a fictionalized main character. Continue reading

Abel Gance – Bonaparte et la révolution (1972)

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The last film made by legendary French director Abel Gance, Bonaparte et la révolution (1971) was also his final attempt to release the Napoleonic biopic he had begun in the 1920s. Napoléon, vu par Abel Gance (1927) was over nine hours long, but represented only the first of a planned six-film series. Having failed to get funding for the remaining episodes, Gance revamped his silent film as Napoléon Bonaparte (1935) – adding newly-shot scenes and dubbing his decade-old footage. After other abortive attempts to resurrect part or all of his biopic in the 1950s, Gance gained funding from Claude Lelouch to release Bonaparte et la revolution in 1971. This last version recycles footage from the films of 1927 and 1935, as well as material from his television work of the 1960s. The result is a bizarre mishmash of old and new images, performances, and voices – less a coherent film than a document embodying the whole of Gance’s 45-year involvement with his eternally incomplete project. Continue reading