Marco Berger & Martín Farina – Taekwondo (2016)

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In a picturesque country house in Buenos Aires, Fernando gathers his mates for a boys-only vacation. Free from work, responsibilities and their girlfriends, this close-knit gang of bros kick back by the pool, sunning their impeccably toned bodies and sharing pot-fuelled stories of sexual conquests. The guys have known each other for years, only this time Fernando has brought with him newcomer Germán, a friend from his taekwondo class, who neglects to tell the group that he’s gay. As the lazy summer days disappear, the connection between Fernando and Germán grows and slowly the boundaries of their relationship begin to blur. A veritable masterclass in will-they-won’t-they suspense, this gloriously protracted, beautifully nuanced tease is both wantonly titillating and disarmingly sweet. Working with co-director Martín Farina, Marco Berger’s inquisitive camera luxuriates in the homoerotics of this male-centric milieu, lingering longingly over the semi-clad bodies with unapologetic gay abandon. Continue reading

Rainer Werner Fassbinder – Fontane Effi Briest (1974)

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It’s a non-traditional black and white film based on the 1894 novel by Theodor Fontane. It’s for an audience that is more aware and welcomes something addressed to the intellect, rather than the way the average casual moviegoer sees a film expecting a story handed to him on a silver platter with a beginning, a middle and an end (usually a happy ending). This is not a film for the casual moviegoer or the critic chasing down blockbusters. Director-writer Rainer Werner Fassbinder has said “It’s a film that really only works in the German language.” What makes the film so difficult for an outsider, is that much of Fontane is nuanced only for the German and therefore someone unfamiliar with the finer cultural points or historical facts will have a tough time of it. Fassbinder based the film on the parts of the novel by Theodor Fontane he agreed with (discarding the parts of the book he disagreed with) and did not make it into a topic about a woman as the title would suggest (a debate grew between the film’s star Hanna Schygulla, who wanted to play it as a story about the titular character; thankfully she couldn’t budge Fassbinder off his intended aim to keep it as a societal moral play and as a result we have a film that is full of conviction and as faithful to a book as you can possibly be). Continue reading

Sergei Parajanov – Tini Zabutykh Predkiv AKA Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965)

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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors has often been described as a Carpathian Romeo and Juliet – that is, if Romeo had the tenacity to live after his beloved’s death. Sergei Paradjanov prefaces the tragic tale set in the Carpathian mountains as the land “forgotten by God and men”, and from the austerity of the environment, it is evident that survival comes at a high price. In essence, the story is incidental to the observations of daily peasant life: the Orthodox order of mass, the rites of spring, the rhythm of the sickle cutting the fields. A young man, Ivan (Ivan Nikolaichuk), falls in love with Marichka (Larisa Kadochnikova), the daughter of the man who killed his father. As his mother’s only surviving child, he leaves the village to work as a hired laborer to provide for her. However, before he can return to Marichka, she falls to her death in an attempt to rescue an errant lamb. The story then follows Ivan through his descent into despair, marriage to the sensual Palagna (Tatyana Bestayeva), and Palagna’s inevitable betrayal. Continue reading

Pascal Bonitzer – Tout de suite maintenant (2016)

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Nora Sator, a dynamic young thirty-year-old, began her career in high finance.
When she learns that her boss and wife have frequented her father in their youth, she discovers that a mysterious rivalry still opposes them.
Ambitious, Nora quickly gains the confidence of her superiors but maintains complicated relations with her colleague Xavier, unlike her sister Maya who quickly succumbs to her charms …
Between stories of family, heart and professional intrigues, destinies intermingle and the masks fall. Continue reading

Jean Cocteau – Orphée AKA Orpheus [+commentary] (1950)

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Jean Cocteau died on October 11, 1963, the same exact day that his longtime friend, the French chanteuse Edith Piaf, succumbed to liver cancer not all that far away. Some have even speculated that the news of Piaf’s death was what spurred the heart attack that claimed Cocteau, a beautiful, if melancholic coincidence, if we are to put our full faith into what’s ostensibly rumor, seeing as the famed poet, theater director, and filmmaker often remarked that he was more scared of the deaths of his loved ones than he was of his own inevitable demise. Continue reading

Roberto Rossellini – Viaggio in Italia AKA Journey to Italy [+ Extras] (1954)

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Among the most influential films of the postwar era, Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy (Viaggio in Italia) charts the declining marriage of a couple from England (Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders) on a trip in the countryside near Naples. More than just the anatomy of a relationship, Rossellini’s masterpiece is a heartrending work of emotion and spirituality. Considered a predecessor to the existentialist works of Michelangelo Antonioni and hailed as a groundbreaking modernist work by the legendary film journal Cahiers du cinéma, Journey to Italy is a breathtaking cinematic benchmark. Continue reading

Marshall Neilan – The Little Princess (1917)

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Synopsis:Captain Richard Carewe, a wealthy British officer stationed in India, sends his daughter Sara to Miss Minchin’s school in London to be educated. Dubbed “the Little Princess,” because of her father’s vast wealth, Sara soon plunges to the position of scullery maid when news arrives of the captain’s death and the loss of her fortune. Mistreated by Miss Minchin, Sara comforts fellow slavey Becky with fairy stories. John Carrisford, an old friend of the captain’s, comes to live in the house next door. Unaware that Sara is there, Carrisford sympathizes with the lonely waifs and decides to provide them with a merry Christmas. Carrisford and his servant Ram Dass set a sumptuous feast for the girls in the attic, and Sara and Becky are about to dig in when Miss Minchin enters and punishes them. Carrisford interferes, and it develops that Crewe’s alleged worthless investment has become successful, and Sara is again an heiress. Carrisford takes charge of Sara and Becky and all ends happily. Continue reading