Youssef Chahine – Al-Massir aka Destiny (1997)

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29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152 Youssef Chahine   Al Massir aka Destiny (1997)

Ideas are imperishable, such is the premise of this powerful, upbeat allegory from one of Egypt’s most esteemed directors, Youssef Chahine. Ostensibly the true tale of revolutionary Muslim philosopher Averroes who lived in 12th-century Spain when Arabs ruled Anadulsia, it parallels the story of Chahine’s own experiences with Islamic fundamentalists when he released his 1994 film L’Emigre because it dared depict a sacred Muslim prophet. During that time, fundamentalists were not content to merely have the film banned, they also threatened Chahine’s life. Despite their destructive efforts, the fundamentalists ultimately failed and L’Emigre became one of Egypt’s most successful films. Averroes was a follower of Aristotelian thought, an innovative lawyer and an important scientist (he discovered the purpose of the retina) who lived during the rule of the great liberal Caliph Al Mansour. At the time, the Caliph’s rivals were part of Magdi Idris, a fundamentalist sect, who sought to destroy his power by cloaking their own political agendas in religious dogma and spreading it liberally amongst the easily influenced peasantry. Continue reading

Luis Buñuel – Belle de jour (1967)

rWoBnO Luis Buñuel   Belle de jour (1967)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152 Luis Buñuel   Belle de jour (1967)

Catherine Deneuve’s porcelain perfection hides a cracked interior in one of the actress’s most iconic roles: Séverine, a Paris housewife who begins secretly spending her after­noon hours working in a bordello. This surreal and erotic late-sixties daydream from provocateur for the ages Luis Buñuel is an examination of desire and fetishistic pleasure (its characters’ and its viewers’), as well as a gently absurdist take on contemporary social mores and class divisions. Fantasy and reality commingle in this burst of cinematic transgression, which was one of Buñuel’s biggest hits. (~Criterion) Continue reading

Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – La promesse AKA The Promise (1996)

promessecvr Jean Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne   La promesse AKA The Promise (1996)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152 Jean Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne   La promesse AKA The Promise (1996)

SYNOPSIS
‘La Promesse’ is the story of 15 year old Igor, who helps his small time crook father run a scam illegally employing immigrants on building sites. But when one of the workers is fatally injured, Igor promises to look after the man’s wife and child – a promise that changes Igor’s life forever. (ArtificialEye)

“The Promise” is the extraordinary story of a boy’s ascendance to grace. Under the conscienceless guidance of his father (Olivier Gourmet as Roger), fifteen-year old Igor appears destined to a life of petty crime. All changes, however, when Igor delivers an uncompromising promise to Hamidou – an immigrant who while working illegally for Roger accidentally falls to his death. As Roger scrambles to cover-up the accident, Igor suddenly finds himself torn between his loyalty to Roger and the agreement he made with Hamidou. Suspicious of Roger’s motivation and intimately drawn to the heart of his promise, Igor must choose between his love for his father and the demands of his awakening conscience. (New Yorker Video) Continue reading

Carlos Saura – La Caza AKA The Hunt (1966)

z7mj Carlos Saura – La Caza AKA The Hunt (1966)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152 Carlos Saura – La Caza AKA The Hunt (1966)

José, Paco and Luis are three friends and war veterans who one day decide to go hunting in the company of Enrique, a 20-year-old on his first outing. They will practice their favorite sport on Paco’s land, where not too long ago an important Civil War battle took place. An edgy thriller as well as a heavily symbolic study of hatred and rivalry, the hunt becomes an allegory of war.
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Catherine Breillat – Tapage nocturne (1979)

ebD5mD Catherine Breillat   Tapage nocturne (1979)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152 Catherine Breillat   Tapage nocturne (1979)

Quote:
Perhaps the film is more personal for Catherine Breillat. Is it a record of her working methods during this period? Her films have always dealt with sexuality and maybe the filmmaker was simply using the medium to express her own thoughts and experiences. I love that; a great deal of why I love the cinema is the auteur theory which states the director is the author of a film; that links in an artist’s work can be found from work to work. Breillat surely qualifies, and I can see how this film influenced her later work. For example, it seems to be a precursor or even a veiled prequel to Sex Is Comedy, an infinitely more insightful look at the filmmaking process and sexual manipulation, and there’s a series of shots showing 2 characters descending a spiral staircase that she would repeat 30 years later in Bluebeard. The problem with Nocturnal Uproar is that it isn’t insightful about the cinema, it isn’t insightful about relationships, and it isn’t even honest about sex. I don’t want to sound perverted but the sex scenes in this film almost all look fake, though it is obvious that actress Laffin is being touched between her legs. The film develops into a woman’s sexual obsession for a man who toys with her, someone who may or may not have alternate intentions with his amours. This is a great subject for a film but it is arrived at a little too late.
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James Foley – After Dark, My Sweet (1990)

C8nvE0 James Foley   After Dark, My Sweet (1990)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152 James Foley   After Dark, My Sweet (1990)

The movie, based on a novel by Jim Thompson, the poet of circa-1950 pulp noir, has a stubborn, sullen truth to it, focusing on its handful of characters during the course of a particularly incompetent kidnapping. The story is so intimate that everything depends on the performances, and Jason Patric, Rachel Ward and Bruce Dern, and a character actor named George Dickerson, bring a grim, poetic sadness to the story. Film noir, we are reminded, is not about action and victory, but about incompetence and defeat. If it has a happy ending, something went wrong…
“After Dark, My Sweet” is the movie that eluded audiences; it grossed less than $3 million, has been almost forgotten, and remains one of the purest and most uncompromising of modern films noir. It captures above all the lonely, exhausted lives of its characters…
It begins with exhaustion and despair, stirs itself into half-hearted evil, and then in a final desperate sequence finds barely
enough heroism to bring itself to a stop again. I have seen “After Dark, My Sweet” four times, and it only deepens with the retelling.–Roger Ebert
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pixel James Foley   After Dark, My Sweet (1990)