Drama

Federico Fellini – I vitelloni (1953)

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Quote:
Federico Fellini’s second feature, *I Vitelloni* (literal trans.: “fatted veal calves”; figurative trans.: “the guys”), is an honest, unpretentious work from the Master before he became besotted with his own self-indulgence.

It’s autobiographical in several indirect ways. The depictions here of young men who are not quite so young anymore, living with their mothers, settling for dead-end jobs or simply not working, and generally languishing their lives away, are based on Fellini’s own observations of such fellows in his boyhood home of Rimini. Autobiographical too in its sense of style: the movie is inescapably stamped by the Neo-Realism of Fellini’s apprenticeship. The grimy faces of working-class people, crumbling tenements, and weed-choked rail-yards are all here. But with a difference: Fellini casts a critical eye on this scene, eschewing the usual Neo-Realist appeal to our presumed socialist sympathies. *I Vitelloni* is not a political film in the usual mid-century Italian manner. Fellini gives us a quintet of heroes who, for the most part, aspire to be bourgeois big-shots of their shabby seacoast town. Not content with that, he makes them lazy, as well . . . and then he asks us to root for them, to actually like them! Needless to say, the intelligentsia of the period didn’t warm to this film, even as the film-going public in Europe loved it, recognizing themselves and their friends and their own hometowns in it. Read More »

Károly Makk – Szerelem AKA Love [+Extras] (1971)

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Plot Synopsis from AMG by Clarke Fountain

This tender black-and-white Hungarian drama takes place in the ’50s. A woman’s (Mari Torcsik) husband has been arrested by the Hungarian secret police and imprisoned as a dissident. The young wife lives with her mother-in-law (Lili Darvas), a sweet and magnetic woman, appears to believe that her son has emigrated to America. Unable to do anything about her husband’s imprisonment, the daughter-in-law keeps the old woman’s good cheer alive by concocting a series of letters from her husband, wherein he does incredible and wonderful things. The two of them share the older lady’s memories of a gentler time. When the husband is finally released, his mother has already passed away, but the love he and his wife share is shown. The role of the mother-in-law was played, at the request of the director, by octogenarian Lili Darvas, the wife of the famous Hungarian playwright and novelist Ferenc Molnar (1878-1952). Read More »

Ramin Bahrani – Man Push Cart (2005)

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Every night while the city sleeps, Ahmad, a Pakistani immigrant, struggles to drag his heavy cart along the streets of New York to his corner in Midtown Manhattan. And every morning, from inside his cart he sells coffee and donuts to a city he cannot call his own. He is the worker found on every street corner in every city. He is a man who wonders if he will ever escape his fate. Read More »

Souleymane Cissé – Den Muso AKA The Young Girl (1975)

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IMDB:
A young mute woman is raped and becomes pregnant, with disastrous consequences within her family. The film also sketches the social/economic situation in urban Mali in the 1970s, particularly in relation to the treatment of women. Written by Gareth McFeely Read More »

Elia Kazan – Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

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From Classic film:
One of the earliest films about anti-Semitism in the U.S.A. (though Oscar Best Picture winner, The Life of Emile Zola (1937) dealt with the subject in France), this Best Picture winner ironically competed against another (better?) film based on the same, Crossfire (1947). The former is a story about a gentile writer who pretends to be Jewish and then experiences the prejudice firsthand, while the latter explores a murder whose anti-Semitic motive is at first unknown. Additionally (even stranger?), these two similar films competed with a Dickens classic & two traditionally Christmastime films The Bishop’s Wife (1947) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947). But Best Actor nominee Gregory Peck & Director Elia Kazan (winning an Oscar with his first nomination) proved a more powerful combination than the three Roberts (Young, Mitchum, Ryan – though Robert Ryan was nominated for Best Supporting Actor) & Director Edward Dmytryk, who received his only Academy Award nomination. Additionally, Celeste Holm beat fellow Gentleman’s Best Supporting Actress nominee Anne Revere and Crossfire’s Gloria Grahame for that award. Both pictures also lost in the Editing & Writing categories. This was probably a very closely contested “race” considering the direct competition by genre. It’s a wonder the other nominee, Great Expectations (1947), didn’t win except for the fact that (up until that point) the British never had (which was “corrected” the following year with Laurence Olivier’s self-directed Hamlet (1948))! Read More »

Arnaud Desplechin – Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle) aka My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument (1996)

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synopsis – AMG:
In this satiric comedy-drama from France, Paul (Mathieu Amalric) is an assistant professor of philosophy disenchanted with teaching and distracted enough that he can’t (or won’t) finish the dissertation that would allow him to become a full professor. Esther (Emmanuelle Devos) has been his girlfriend for nearly a decade; while he’s no longer happy with the relationship, he has trouble working up the courage to break it off. He’s smitten with Sylvia (Marianne Denicourt), the lover of his best friend Nathan (Emmanuel Salinger); Paul and Sylvia had a brief fling two years ago, and he can’t get her out of his mind. However, once Paul gives Esther her walking papers, he starts chasing after Valerie (Jeanne Balibar), while also keeping his eye on Patricia (Chiara Mastroianni), the girlfriend of his cousin (and roommate) Bob (Thibault de Montalembert). It’s hard to imagine Paul having much time to think about anything else amidst all this romantic tumult, but when Rabier (Michel Vuillermoz), a former friend, gets a top spot in Paul’s department, it leads to an ongoing argument that both adds to and reflects the turmoil of his romantic life. Amalric’s performance earned him a 1997 Cיsar Award as Most Promising Young Actor. — Mark Deming Read More »

Andrzej Zulawski – Szamanka AKA Chamanka (1996)

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ANDRZEJ ZULAWSKI’S adaptation of Manuela Gretkowska’s provocative and hugely successful novel reaches new extremes in the depiction of brutality, sex, and passion as it tells the story of a young(ish) anthropologist driven by the mystery surrounding the death of a recently discovered shaman; and his growing obsession with an enigmatic yet violently perverse beauty known as “The Italian”.SZAMANKA (She-Shaman) is a film ‘without brakes’. Above all else, it is a ‘demonic’ film where characters are battlegrounds in the war between demons and angels, where angels are agents of God and demons are those of the Devil. This pulpy, sexually charged tale with its deranged erotic futurism underlines Zulawski’s commitment to stretch the limits of aesthetic expression by exploring themes beyond the pale in conventional cinema. Violence, exuberance and sexuality are its key ingredients. Through hysteria, possession and hallucination we see what the Polish writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski called ‘naked soul’. Read More »