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

Luchino Visconti – Il gattopardo AKA The Leopard (1963)

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Luchino Visconti’s “Il Gattopardo” is an epic on the grandest possible scale. The film recreates, with nostalgia, drama, and opulence, the tumultuous years of Italy’s Risorgimento, when the aristocracy lost its grip and the middle classes rose and formed a unified, democratic Italy. Burt Lancaster stars as the aging prince watching his culture and fortune wane in the face of a new generation, represented by his upstart nephew (Alain Delon) and his beautiful fiancée (Claudia Cardinale). Awarded the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, “Il Gattopardo” translates Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel, and the history it recounts, into a truly cinematic masterpiece. Continue reading

Toshio Masuda – Kanzenna yugi AKA Perfect game (1958)

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In recent years, director Toshio Masuda has worked on the international stage with action-oriented movies such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and the Space Cruiser Yamato films. But he began his career in the middle-late 1950s with The Perfect Game (aka Kanzen Na Yuugi), a shockingly amoral tale of delinquency, rape, and murder that was to Japan, what In Cold Blood was to American cinema. It was among the earliest works in the career of a director who has generated little except major box office hits in Japan since the 1950s. …says Criterion. Or in short: young Akira Kobayashi of Nikkatsu’s diamond line fame’s cool combined with a tale about a heist which goes terribly wrong. Continue reading

Nicolas Klotz – Low Life (2011)

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Synopsis
A group of young people are organizing. One night, they face the police who came to evacuate an African squat. Carmen meets Hussain, a young afghan poet. Crazy in love, they don’t leave each other. But a curse hangs over the city, papers are carrying death, bodies are falling. Panicked at the idea that he could get arrested, Carmen forbids him to go out, and locks herself with him. Gradually, Hussain get the feeling that she is watching him… Continue reading