Abderrahmane Sissako – Timbuktu (2014)

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Cannes 2014: Timbuktu review – searing fundamentalist drama
By Peter Bradshaw

Abderrahmane Sissako’s passionate and visually beautiful film Timbuktu is a cry from the heart – with all the more moral authority for being expressed with such grace and such care. It is a portrait of the country of his childhood, the west African state of Mali, and in particular the city of Timbuktu, whose rich and humane traditions are being trampled, as Sissako sees it, by fanatical jihadis, often from outside the country. The story revolves around the death of a cow, affectionately named “GPS” – an appropriate symbol for a country that has lost its way. Continue reading

Nikolai Gubenko – Podranki aka The Orphans (1977)

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Synopsis
The original Russian title Podranki can be translated as War Orphans. The protagonist is an adult writer who undergoes a flashback at the drop of a hat. He recalls how he was orphaned when his father was killed in World War II and his mother committed suicide. He remembers the appalling treatment afforded him by a sadistic orphanage official. And he muses over his losing contact with his brothers and sisters. This is why the grown-up writer is currently involved in lobbying for better treatment of Russian orphans. Orphans caused a minor stir in 1977 when it became the first Russian film in nearly two decades to be chosen for the Cannes Film Festival by the festival judges, rather than being submitted by the Soviets. The film did not see the light of a carbon arc in America until 1980. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi Continue reading

David Oelhoffen – Loin des hommes AKA Far from Men (2014)

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Quote:
The existential questions Albert Camus raises in his short story “The Guest” translate exceptionally well to the Western genre in “Far From Men,” which stars Viggo Mortensen as a colonial schoolteacher tasked with transporting an Arab farmer accused of killing his cousin to trial. While the film isn’t as tense as “3:10 to Yuma,” nor energetic enough to overcome its niche status, writer-director David Oelhoffen’s idea of approaching this potent two-hander as an Algeria-set horse opera proves as inspired as it is unexpected. By treating the story’s epic High Plateau vistas the way John Ford did Monument Valley, Oelhoffen amplifies the moral concerns facing characters living just beyond the reach of civilization and law. Continue reading

Grigori Kozintsev & Leonid Trauberg – S.V.D. – Soyuz velikogo dela AKA Union of the Great Cause (1927)

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Summary:
The film tells about the Decembrists’ revolt in the south of Russia.

(imdb)
A failed Russian Revolution succeeded magnificently on screen., 3 June 1999
Author: Theodore J. van Houten from Haamstede, 4328 ZG 1 Netherlands

S.V.D. was released in August 1927. A beautiful costume drama, it is on the other hand a somewhat expressionistic, poetical fantasy. Its photography and images are more important than its desired political contents. The script, written by the inspiring historian Yuri Tinyanov (director Leonid Trauberg [1901-1990]could speak about Tinyanov for hours) supplied a failed love story, a political intrigue involving two czars, and a traveling circus background. The picture glorifies the 1825 ‘Decembrists’ uprisal: officers in the imperial Russian army are fed up with the new czar’s autocracy. The main character is a traitor, the Scotsman Maddocks (Medoks). He has won a ring gambling. It carries the initials S.V.D. – the secret union of the ‘Big Deed’ (overthrowing the czar). Maddocks expects the ring to protect him. He is desparate to enter the circles of political power in St. Petersburg hoping a former lover (Sofia Magaril) will introduce him there. A wounded revolutionary officer is on the run, finding refuge in a circus. This setting enabled cinematographer Andrei Moskvin to film a sequence on a galloping horse ‘holding only the camera’. One of the most imaginative scenes takes place on the skating rink. The picture suddenly turns into an ice crystal created by using mirrors. The skater now waltzes his rounds all over the picture. S.V.D. introduces several pessimistic symbols: night clouds, a turtle suggesting how slowly the wounded revolutionary can move, etc. It is an extremely beautiful film, its narrative less important than its image qualities. An un-Russian revolution that failed but turned out a success on screen. It is clear that Kozintsev & Trauberg were ready for their next costume drama THE NEW BABYLON, now considered their great masterpiece. S.V.D. was restored by the German TV-station ZDF ca. 1980. For this version German composer Hamel wrote a new electronic music score, not very fitting apart from the skating rink waltz. Continue reading

Romain Gary – Les oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou AKA Birds in Perù (1968)

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SPOILER
From American Film Institute Catalog 1961-1970: “In the early morning hours after a Peruvian carnival, a young woman named Adriana lies naked and exhausted on a lonely stretch of beach, the final resting place for dying gulls from the nearby Guano Islands. The night before, Adriana left her sadomasochistic millionaire husband and came to the beach with four costumed revelers with whom she hoped to find sexual fulfillment. Tormented by nymphomania, and knowing that her husband and his chauffeur-bodyguard will soon come for her, Adriana dresses herself and wanders into a beachside brothel owned by Madame Fernande. At first Adriana gives herself to the madame and offers to work for her as a prostitute but then changes her mind and returns to the beach. Remembering her agreement that the chauffeur could kill her if she ever succumbed again to her sickness, she attempts to drown herself, but she is rescued by Rainier, a poet and self-confessed failure, who runs a beach cafe that no one frequents. While they make love, Rainier implies that they could be each other’s salvation. His suggestions are interrupted, however, by the arrival of the chauffeur and the whisky-sodden husband, who have come to carry out the agreed-upon ritualized execution. Rainier intervenes and is knocked unconscious; a young Indian boy called Alejo, who has been following Adriana, leaps out from a hiding place and plunges a knife into the chauffeur. Ignoring the others, Adriana wanders off alone as her husband picks up the dead chauffeur’s cap and hands it to Rainier, who accepts it. As the two men set off after Adriana, the young boy races headlong into the sea”SPOILER Continue reading

Various – Destricted (2006)

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the first short film collection of its kind, bringing together sex and art in a series of short films created by some of the world’s most visual and provocative artists and directors

Balkan Erotic Epic
Marina Abramović, 2005, 13 min
Performance art legend Marina Abramović delves into Balkan folklore to create an instructional series of mis en scènes that explore the crude, magical and mysterious rites of ethnic fertility and virility.

Hoist
Matthew Barney, 2004, 14 min 36 sec
American fabulist Matthew Barney stages the erotics of sexual encounter as it takes place between ‘green man’ and the lubricated drive shaft of a customised deforestation vehicle destined for the Carnival de Bahia.
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Maria Speth – Töchter AKA Daughters (2014)

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Agnes, a teacher from the Hessian provinces, has come to Berlin to identify a dead girl who might be Lydia, her runaway daughter. It turns out not to be Lydia, but Agnes stays in the city anyway. Still frantically looking, she comes a young stray called Ines who no longer leaves her side.
Ines could easily have appeared in Maria Speth’s documentary 9 Leben, a portrait of young people who decide to live on the street from an early age. Whereas in Madonnen the director told the story of a young woman incapable of taking responsibility for her children whilst continuing to give birth to more, this film is about a caring mother whose daughter is indeed loved, her disappearance leaving behind a blind spot. It is Ines whose provocative behaviour and intrusive questions force Agnes to rethink the relationship between herself and her daughter. The camera is always close by their faces, whether during nocturnal car journeys or hotel room discussions, but also leaves enough space for these two people to collide, drawing each other out of their shells and growing ever closer in quite singular fashion. (-berlinale.de) Continue reading