Mauro Bolognini – Per le antiche scale AKA Down the Ancient Stairs (1975)

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A mental hospital somewhere in Tuscany during the thirties. Far away from fascism, this closed world is ruled over by Dr. Bonaccorsi, a passionate and benevolent psychiatrist whose dream is to isolate the germ of madness. He’s also a very active womanizer and three women benefit from his sexual itch: Francesca, the hospital manager’s wife, Bianca, his devoted nurse and Carla, the nymphomaniac wife of a doctor. His well-ordered universe starts to be challenged with the coming of Anna, a trainee psychiatrist, who disapproves of his theory on the origin of madness. Worse, she resists his advances. Since Bonaccorsi is more insecure than he looks, what will become of him? Continue reading

Jayro Bustamante – Ixcanul (2015)

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María, a 17-year-old Kaqchikel Maya, lives with her parents on a coffee plantation at the foot of an active volcano. She is set to be married to the farm’s foreman. But María longs to discover the world on the other side of the mountain, a place she cannot even imagine. And so she seduces a coffee-harvester who wants to escape to the USA. When this man leaves her behind, María discovers her own world and culture anew. Continue reading

Lucile Hadzihalilovic – Évolution aka Evolution (2015)

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The only residents of young Nicholas’s seaside town are women and boys. When he sees a dead body in the ocean one day, he begins to question his existence and surroundings. Why must he, and all the other boys, be hospitalised?

Nicolas is a boy living on a remote island set in the future, or another planet – or is it a dream? His village consists of white-painted houses located above the sea with a volcanic rock and black sand coastline, populated by young women and boys all of a similar age to Nicolas. Whilst swimming, Nicolas makes a discovery in the ocean, which is shrugged off my his mother, who, like all the women in the town has tied-back hair, is pale and wears a simple thin beige dress. Nicolas is curious, thinks that he is being lied to and starts to explore his environment, witnessing some unsettling scenes. He then finds himself taken to a hospital-like building where he along, with the others, undergoes a series of medical procedures by the women, dressed as nurses. He is befriended by one nurse, who becomes instrumental in the film’s denouement. The film is not easy to categorise; it is not only enigmatic but beautifully filmed with deeply poetic imagery. – IMDb Continue reading

Vitali Kanevsky – Samostoyatelnaya zhizn aka An Independent Life (1992)

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on the road again…

This is the second instalment of a three-part series of autobiographical films about the director’s life.

The first, which won various awards for its maker, was entitled Zamri Oumi Voskresni and was later retitled Zari, Umri, Vokresni (“Freeze-Die-Come to Life).

At the end of that film, set at the conclusion of World War II, the young Valerka was striving hard to overcome the inertia of just getting by, along with his sometime friend Galiya. In this one, he is adjusting to Galiya’s death and is back in school and is living with his mother, a prostitute. After a girl at the school is found to have been gang-raped, the headmaster chooses Valerka to be one of the scapegoats, though he had nothing to do with the deed. Continue reading

Ciro Guerra – El abrazo de la serpiente AKA Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

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“You are nothing but a white!” So shouts indigenous Amazonian shaman Karamakate (Nilbio Torres) to the seemingly on-the-level but still suspicious German scientist/explorer Theodor (Jan Bijvoet) in Ciro Guerra’s enthralling, politically tinged, psychedelic, historical adventure film Embrace of the Serpent. Reversing the perspective of more familiar movies such as Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo or Roland Joffé’s The Mission, Embrace of the Serpent’s snaky crawl up the river investigates imperialism’s cultural pollution from the inside out, with the mystical Karamakate as a reluctant tour guide in two time periods. Continue reading

Flora Gomes – Po di Sangui aka l’arbre aux armes AKA Tree of blood (1996)

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In the colorful forest village of Amanha Lundju, tradition demands that when a child is born a tree be planted. As the tree grows, it becomes the twin of the growing human being. At the same time, trees are constantly being felled for firewood and buildings, and the threat of organized deforestation by the state hovers ominously.

Dou (Ramiro Naka) returns to the village from his wanderings to learn that his twin brother, Hami, has just died under mysterious circumstances. He has to take on Hami’s widow and child, to the dismay of his promised bride, Saly (Edna Evora). Everyone seems to confuse Dou with his dead brother, including his aged, mystical mother. Dou talks to Hami’s tree to understand what ails the village, while in a breathtaking silent sequence his mother calls Hami’s spirit down from the beyond. Continue reading