Anne Fontaine – Les innocentes AKA The Innocents (2016)

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It was only three years ago that Ida diligently aestheticized the blackness of religious habits against the whiteness of Polish snow, so it’s hard not to expect Anne Fontaine’s The Innocents, also centered around nuns in war-ravaged Poland, to abide by the pathos we associate with Pawel Pawlikowski’s film. While Fontaine does take advantage of the ways that the costuming of nuns lends itself to striking contrasts against landscape vistas, she’s more interested in retrieving a historical account than pleasing the eye or tugging at our heartstrings. Fontaine’s film is all gloom and doom from beginning to end not because of the horrors a single character we identify with suffers, but because of the scale of horror impinged upon an entire community. Continue reading

Jean Epstein – Coeur fidèle AKA The Faithful Heart (1923)

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In Coeur Fidèle’s accompanying 44-page booklet, Jean Epstein, at a 1924 address, argues his film as “romantic” rather than”realist”, the label with which Italian poet Ricciotto Canudo assigned it before his death. The truth is that Epstein’s largely unknown masterpiece provides a fascinating agreement of the two styles, oscillating with seamless precision between reverie and sincerity. Marie (Gina Manès) is in love with Jean (Léon Mathot), a kind-hearted man who works on the Marseille docklands, but Marie’s adoptive parents want to marry her off to the obnoxious and unemployed drunk Petit Paul (Edmond Van Daële), and the scene is set for a sensational melodrama to unfold. Continue reading

Yuxin Zhuang – Ai qing de ya chi AKA Teeth of Love (2007)

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Synopsis:
An experienced TV drama screenwriter and a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, Zhuang Yuxin makes his debut feature Love Teeth in 2006, winning much applause from critics. Praised as the female version of the award-winning In the Heat of the Sun, Love Teeth also documents the rapid social and economic changes in Mainland China after the disastrous Cultural Revolution. The notions of love, pain, and memory recur when the film unfolds a woman’s history of three romances that all end in physical as well as psychological pain. Officially selected for the Deauville Asian Film Festival 2007 in France, Love Teeth also won the Best Feature at the 14th Beijing Student Film Festival. Continue reading

Robert Bresson – Pickpocket (1959)

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Michel is an inscrutable young man – neatly dressed, mild mannered, intelligent – hardly the type whom one would suspect to be a pickpocket. And perhaps, that is reason that he does it. Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket is a well crafted, austere, and taut film of a man driven by his self-destructive compulsion. We first encounter Michel (Martin LaSalle) at a Paris racetrack, stealthily fingering through the clasp of a woman’s handbag, reaching in, pocketing her money. A wild, almost euphoric gaze comes over his impassive face, heightened by the cheering crowd as the horses approach the finish line. Soon, his compulsion consumes him. His friend, Jacques (Pierre Leymarie) furnishes him with contacts for employment opportunities, but he does not follow through. Continue reading

Aleksey Fedorchenko – Angely revolyutsii AKA Angels of Revolution (2014)

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Five friends – a poet, an actor, a painter, an architect and a primitivist film director – are five red avant-garde artists who try to find the embodiment of their hopes and dreams in the young Soviet state. The Revolution is boiling up like a bottle with apple cider: winged service dogs and heart-shaped potatoes, dead Semashko, the People’s Commissar for Health, and cheerful angels, love for the Tsar and love for the young secretary Annushka, executions and pregnancies – everything is interlaced and inseparable! Continue reading