Robert Bresson – Au hasard Balthazar aka Balthazar [Criterion] (1966)

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Jim Ridley wrote:
With exquisite, heartrending calm, Bresson’s 1966 masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar lays out the life of a donkey, from first brays to final rest. Baptized Balthazar, the donkey goes through passages of life parallel to his early owner, a farmer’s daughter named Marie (played as an adult by Anne Wiazemsky).
Together and separately, they experience the full spectrum of man’s failings: Balthazar is kicked by passing thugs, beaten by an owner, and eventually used for theft, while Marie is seduced, abandoned and ultimately assaulted. Yet while Bresson’s vision is harsh, it’s also redemptive, even merciful. It ends on a note of quiet transcendence, as if to say all suffering, no matter how grave, cannot last. Continue reading

Enrico Guazzoni – Fabiola (1918)

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Italian film’s early master of the historical spectacle, Enrico Guazzoni, was responsible for the second of (at least) three film adaptations of Nicholas Patrick Wiseman’s classic novel about Christianity’s rise in ancient Rome. Aside from the usual great production values of these silent epics, what surprises here is perhaps the rather graphic violence. And, the film is further notable for being Elena Sangro’s debut (when she was still going by the name Maria Antonietta Bartoli-Avveduti) in the title role no less. Continue reading

Sultan Khodzhikov – Kyz-Zhibek AKA Lady Zhibek (1971)

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Kyz-Zhibek – Kazakh poetic folk legend of the 16th century, tells about the period in the Kazakh nation when the people suffered from bloody feuds. In those times each province of the Kazakh nation had its own Khan and each tried to supersede the other. The love story of Tolegen, the brave warrior, and the beauty Zhibek ends tragically because of inter-family strife. Tolegen is foully murdered by Bekejan (the batyr, or nobleman, of the rival family), who earlier strived for the hand of Zhibek. Zhibek commits suicide after learning about the death of Tolegen.

16 variants of the legend exist in different parts of Kazakhstan.

In 1934 opera “Kyz-Zhibek” was staged in Abay Opera House (music – Eugeny Brusilovsky, libretto – Gabit Musrepov).

In 1970 Kazakhfilm made film based on the legend.

In 1988 the poem was translated into Russian by Kazakh poet Bakhytzhan Kanapyanov. Continue reading

Edgar Reitz – Die andere Heimat – Chronik einer Sehnsucht AKA Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision (2013)

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When Edgar Reitz made the Heimat film series in 1984 he created an incredible chronicle of German rural life in the 20th century. He went on to release another couple of mini-series, bringing events up to the modern era. At over 53 hours they were beautifully made and together are an epic saga of the Simon family and the village of Schabbach. He returns to familiar ground for this prequel, charting the fortunes of the same clan between 1840-1844, in Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision.

Jacob (Jan Dieter Schneider) dreams of escaping the hard, oppressive and poor life in Schabbach by emigrating to the tropics. His father (Rüdiger Kriese), the local blacksmith, despairs that his son is stuck with his nose in a book whilst there so much work to do. His mother (Marita Breuer) on the other hand, is happy to indulge his daydreaming. He falls for Jettchen (Antonia Bill), the daughter of a mill owner, but they are fated not to be together. When his brother Gustav (Maximilian Scheidt) returns from war, a drunken night with Jettchen leads to her getting pregnant, whilst Jacob is arrested after his first brush with rebellion. Continue reading

John Ford – The Iron Horse [US Version] (1924)

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allmovie wrote:
David Brandon (James Gordon) is a surveyor in the Old West who dreams that one day the entire North American continent will be linked by railroads. However, to make this dream a reality, a clear trail must be found through the Rocky Mountains. With his boy Davy (Winston Miller), David sets out to find such a path, but he’s ambushed by a tribe of Indians led by a white savage, Peter Jesson (Cyril Chadwick); while the boy manages to escape, David is killed. Years later, the adult Davy Brandon (George O’Brien) still believes in his father’s dream of a transcontinental railroad, and legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln has made it an official mandate. Davy is hired on as a railroad surveyor by Thomas Marsh (Will R. Walling), the father of his childhood sweetheart Miriam (Madge Bellamy). While Davy hopes to win Miriam’s heart as he helps to find the trail that led to his father’s death years ago, he’s disappointed to discover that Miriam is already married — and shocked to discover her husband is Peter Jesson, now working with the railroad as a civil engineer. As the Union Pacific crew presses on to their historic meeting at Promitory Point, Davy must find a way to earn Miriam’s love and uncover Peter’s murderous past. Continue reading

Andrei Tarkovsky – Andrey Rublyov (1966) DVD

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Presented as a tableaux of seven sections in black and white, with a final montage of Rublev’s painted icons in color, the film takes an unflinching gaze at medieval Russia during the first quarter of the 15th century, a period of Mongol-Tartar invasion and growing Christian influence.

Commissioned to paint the interior of the Vladimir cathedral, Andrei Rublev (Anatoli Solonitsyn) leaves the Andronnikov monastery with an entourage of monks and assistants, witnessing in his travels the degradations befalling his fellow Russians, including pillage, oppression from tyrants and Mongols, torture, rape, and plague. Faced with the brutalities of the world outside the religious enclave, Rublev’s faith is shaken, prompting him to question the uses or even possibility of art in a degraded world. After Mongols sack the city of Vladimir, burning the very cathedral that he has been commissioned to paint, Rublev takes a vow of silence and withdraws completely, removing himself to the hermetic confines of the monastery. Continue reading