Ariane Mnouchkine – Molière (1978)

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Plot
Jean Baptiste Poquelin Molière (1622-73) was perhaps the greatest playwright of French history. His comedies have been performed, adapted and re-adapted continually from his day to ours not only in France, but around the world. It is certain that he lived and breathed for the theater: the company he toured with became first, the King’s Troupe (for the “Sun King,” Louis XIV), and later became what was even then the most prestigious theater company of France, the Comédie Française. The Comédie Française remains a national institution of unimaginable importance. Thanks to Molière’s devastating wit, the king’s patronage and protection was more than a formality: he offended many important people personally and in his comedies. This lavish biographical film chronicles his childhood experiences as a merchant’s son, going by the name of Pouquelin, up to the time he ran away to join the Béjart company of travelling players, and then follows his later years as a respected client of the king. Viewers will find their appreciation for this film enriched by prior knowledge of Molière, his plays, and his times. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide Continue reading

Ben Safdie & Joshua Safdie – Heaven Knows What (2014)

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Based on the experiences of Arielle Holmes — a homeless teenager with a ferocious Jersey accent — the film stars Holmes as Harley, a fictionalized version of herself: a heroin-hooked panhandler unable to get either the junk or her wicked boyfriend Ilya (wan Hollywood star Caleb Landry Jones, startlingly unrecognizable) out of her system. Locked into the relentlessly repetitive cycle of the addict’s life — the never-ending search to score, the squabbles with dealers and fellow junkies, the violence ever ready to erupt as either farce or tragedy — she is still driven by a strange (and surely self-destructive) desire for beauty, the explosive moments of rapture that puncture the drabness of her existence. Continue reading

Robert Lepage – La Face cachée de la lune AKA The Far Side of the Moon [+extra] (2003)

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Synopsis:

Forty-something Quebeçois Philippe Roberge is floundering in his life. He believes that no one listens to him or takes him seriously. A graduate student in Philosophy of Scientific Culture, he has just failed his Ph.D. dissertation for the second time, his theory of interest in outer space being a narcissistic response from man being widely rejected throughout the community. To make ends meet, he works selling newspaper subscriptions. And he has a cordial but basically non-existent relationship with his ex-wife. Philippe examines his life in response to the recent death of his mother coupled with his dissertation beliefs. Although she lived in a care home, he acted as her primary caregiver. His only remaining family is his younger gay brother, André, the two who could not have more different temperaments. As such, they do not get along. Following his mother’s death, Philippe’s thoughts about his life are influenced by three major incidents: being invited to speak at a major conference in Russia by a cosmonaut who he idolizes, entering a contest on sending messages into outer space, and receiving information regarding the nature of his mother’s death.
— IMDb. Continue reading

Bent Hamer – 1001 Gram (2014)

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Quote:
When Norwegian scientist Marie attends a seminar in Paris on the actual weight of a kilo, it is her own measurement of disappointment, grief and, not least, love, that ends up on the scale. Finally Marie is forced to come to terms with how much a human life truly weighs and which measurements she intends to live by.

The international prototype kilogram of 1889, the mother of all kilos, is today kept in a vault at Bureau International des Poids et Mesures BIPM in Paris. It is the last physical weight reference still in use and the national prototypes must from time to time be transported from their respective countries to Paris in order to be recalibrated Continue reading

Theodoros Angelopoulos – O thiasos aka The Traveling Players (1975)

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Here is an excellent overview of the film that provides a ton of background information that greatly helps in understanding this outstanding film.

from Jump Cut, no. 10-11, 1976, pp. 5-6
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1976, 2004

“In THIASSOS even though we refer to the past, we are talking about the present. The approach is not mythical but dialectical. This comes through in the structure of the film where often two historical times are dialectically juxtaposed in the same shot creating associations leading directly to historical conclusions… Those links do not level the events but bypass the notions of past/present and instead provide a linear developmental interpretation which exists only in the present.”
— Theodoros Angelopoulos Continue reading

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Mutter Kusters’ Fahrt zum Himmel aka Mother Kusters Goes To Heaven (1975)

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Mother Küsters’ Trip to Heaven (German: Mutter Küsters’ Fahrt zum Himmel) is a 1975 German film written and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It stars Brigitte Mira, Ingrid Caven, Karlheinz Böhm and Margit Carstensen. The film was shot over 20 days between February and March of 1975 in Frankfurt am Main.

Emma Küsters (Mira), a working-class woman lives in Frankfurt with her son and daughter-in-law. While she is doing outreach work assembling electric plugs, Frau Küsters learns that her husband Hermann (a tire-factory worker for twenty years) has killed his supervisor and then committed suicide. It later becomes apparent that Mr. Küsters had become temporarily insane after hearing layoff announcements. Continue reading

Anthony Mann – The Great Flamarion (1945)

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Synopsis (All Movie Guide)

This ambitious independent production was packaged by producer W. Lee Wilder, brother of Billy Wilder, and distributed by Republic. The title character, played with relish (and a bit of mustard) by Erich Von Stroheim, is an arrogant vaudeville artiste specializing in a trick-gunshot act. A dyed-in-the-wool misogynist, Flamarion at first pays little attention to his beautiful assistant Connie (Mary Beth Hughes)-just as well, since Connie is already married to Flamarion’s other assistant, Al Wallace (Dan Duryea). Bored with marriage, Connie begins playing up to her boss, the result being the “accidental” death of Al during Flamarion’s act. Having committed murder for Connie’s sake, Flamarion fully expects to be sexually compensated-but he doesn’t know the treacherous Connie as well as the late Al did. Future cult favorite Anthony Mann’s direction is rather perfunctory, suggesting perhaps that he was somewhat intimidated in the presence of the flamboyant Von Stroheim. — Hal Erickson Continue reading