Leader of a traveling gypsy band from the steppes of Bessarabia (now Moldova), Toma Alistar is a skilled violinist whose fame takes him on tours around European capitals and royal courts. He remains obsessed with his first love, beautiful Leanca who was married elsewhere while Toma was traveling, and spends his life and fortune trying to find her. Written by Markku Kuoppamäki Continue reading
Entertaining fantasy-based peplum, starring American actor Roger Browne as the God of War.
The king of Telbia defeats an African army through the intervention of the war god Mars. Remaining on Earth, Mars falls in love with the human girl Daphne, but she is forced to become a priestess in the temple of Venus. Mars tries to free her, but falls under the spell of Venus, who keeps him prisoner. Daphne, meanwhile, having violated the sanctity of the temple, is condemned to be devoured by a monster.
Director Marcello Baldi composes his shots to make full use of the Totalscope image, making this picture a must in widescreen. Highlights include the opening battle between the Greek and African armies and a Little Shoppe of Horrors-type plant monster to whom maidens are sacrificed. Continue reading
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
18th century Kazakhstan, a vast, pitiless region of austere and terrible beauty, bordered by China, Russia and Tibet. Here the proud and warlike Kazakh tribes have survived and fought for centuries – against invaders, against their formidable Jungar enemies and amongst themselves.
Oraz, a mystic and warrior possessed of great powers, foretells the birth of a new star, a hero. This boy -Mansur – is destined to unite the Kazakhs, and lead them to glorious victory against their enemies. Fearful of Oraz’ prediction, the Jungar ruler Galdan orders his General, Sharish, to find the child and slay him. However, Oraz saves Mansur and delivers him to his father, Sultan Wali. Continue reading
Roger Ebert wrote:
Every review of “Russian Ark” begins by discussing its method. The movie consists of one unbroken shot lasting the entire length of the film, as a camera glides through the Hermitage, the repository of Russian art and history in St. Petersburg. The cinematographer Tillman Buttner, using a Steadicam and high-def digital technology, joined with some 2,000 actors in an tight-wire act in which every mark and cue had to be hit without fail; there were two broken takes before the third time was the charm.
The subject of the film, which is written, directed and (in a sense) hosted by Alexander Sokurov, is no less than three centuries of Russian history. The camera doesn’t merely take us on a guided tour of the art on the walls and in the corridors, but witnesses many visitors who came to the Hermitage over the years. Apart from anything else, this is one of the best-sustained ideas I have ever seen on the screen. Sokurov reportedly rehearsed his all-important camera move again and again with the cinematographer, the actors and the invisible sound and lighting technicians, knowing that the Hermitage would be given to him for only one precious day. Continue reading
Angelopoulos moves his forces like a juggernaut to stage formidable set-pieces, coups de thιβtre that impress with their vast scale without necessarily engaging our emotions. In his most remarkable feat, he constructs a low-lying town in a dry lakebed only to drown it for a spectacular inundation. There follows a floating funeral on a water-borne raft, players posed beside the open coffin, as a flotilla of boats proceeds with a flourish of black flags. Prows part the water as the camera glides ahead, like a courtier preparing the way, but a sudden change of angle confronts us with a massive phalanx of figures reflected in the floodwater, with blue sky streaking the top of the frame. Continue reading
One of the most beautiful, poetic films ever made. The opening scenes are pure, unbeatable art. Rather than the unwinding of the complex narrative itself, it is the visual power of the images that Angelopoulos offers us that make this work so disturbing and beautiful. You have to watch the film as a series of paintings, poems, installations and performances rather than a conventional movie. The acting is superb, especially Harvey Keitel’s performance, one of the best that this great actor has ever delivered. Especially memorable is the scene in which an old woman is taken for a ride to her hometown in Macedonia by Keitel. The woman left Macedonia before the advent of Communism and is now returning to her country for the first time in decades. Since her absence, her place has been transformed in a nightmarish communist city, filled with gray, impersonal, concrete buildings. We see the woman helpless and bewildered in an environment that she no longer recognizes, while Keitel goes away. A powerful metaphor of the fast and tremendous transformations suffered by the Balkans during the 20th century. Continue reading