Set in 221 BC, The Emperor and the Assassin tells of Ying Zheng (Li Xuejian) and his obsession to unite seven Chinese kingdoms and become the first Emperor of China. The film mixes spectacular battle scenes with court intrigue, counterpointed by the King’s complex relationship with the only woman he has truly loved, the Lady Zhao (Gong Li). From protocol-ridden palaces to wide open grasslands, this is a visually striking film, both beautiful and at the same time burdened with the horrors of the period. Continue reading Kaige Chen – Jing Ke ci Qin Wang AKA The Emperor and the Assassin [+extra] (1998)
The Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City’s retrospective – History Lessons: The Films of Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 30 January to 12 February 2004, screened the major work of this Polish director whose career spanned 50+ years. The programme offered, amidst the veteran’s varied output, a very special, culture vulture/archaeologist’s dream: Pharaoh (aka: Faraon), co-scripted by Kawalerowicz with Tadeusz Konwicki, and based on a novel by Boleslaw Prus. The best cinematic recreation of circa 1100 BC Late New Kingdom Dynastic Egypt ever, photographed on location at authentic sites and environs, the production design, costumes and props were all meticulously researched. Continue reading Jerzy Kawalerowicz – Faraon (1966)
The last film made by legendary French director Abel Gance, Bonaparte et la révolution (1971) was also his final attempt to release the Napoleonic biopic he had begun in the 1920s. Napoléon, vu par Abel Gance (1927) was over nine hours long, but represented only the first of a planned six-film series. Having failed to get funding for the remaining episodes, Gance revamped his silent film as Napoléon Bonaparte (1935) – adding newly-shot scenes and dubbing his decade-old footage. After other abortive attempts to resurrect part or all of his biopic in the 1950s, Gance gained funding from Claude Lelouch to release Bonaparte et la revolution in 1971. This last version recycles footage from the films of 1927 and 1935, as well as material from his television work of the 1960s. The result is a bizarre mishmash of old and new images, performances, and voices – less a coherent film than a document embodying the whole of Gance’s 45-year involvement with his eternally incomplete project. Continue reading Abel Gance – Bonaparte et la révolution (1972)
On the opening night of its annual 31 Days of Oscar festival, TCM presents the world premiere of “And the Oscar Goes To…”, a documentary tracing the history of the Academy Awards. The documentary is one of a series of programming events leading up to the TCM 20th anniversary in April 2014. In telling the story of the gold-plated statuette that became the film industry’s most coveted prize, And the Oscar Goes To… traces the history of the Academy itself, which began in 1927 when Louis B. Mayer, then head of MGM, led other prominent members of the industry in forming this professional honorary organization. Two years later the Academy began bestowing awards, which were nicknamed “Oscar” and quickly came to represent the pinnacle of cinematic achievement. Continue reading Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman – And the Oscar Goes To… (2014)
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 John Ford – The Iron Horse [US Version] (1924)
Here is an excellent overview of the film that provides a ton of background information that greatly helps in understanding this outstanding film.
from Jump Cut, no. 10-11, 1976, pp. 5-6
copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1976, 2004
“In THIASSOS even though we refer to the past, we are talking about the present. The approach is not mythical but dialectical. This comes through in the structure of the film where often two historical times are dialectically juxtaposed in the same shot creating associations leading directly to historical conclusions… Those links do not level the events but bypass the notions of past/present and instead provide a linear developmental interpretation which exists only in the present.”
— Theodoros Angelopoulos Continue reading Theodoros Angelopoulos – O thiasos aka The Traveling Players (1975)
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 Andrei Tarkovsky – Andrey Rublyov AKA Andrei Rublev (1969) DVD