Marguerite Duras – Il Dialogo di Roma (1982)

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“The subject of this film is the conversation between a man and a woman. A couple, maybe lovers, maybe married, it doesn’t matter. (…) During this conversation, we do not see but the city of Rome. I wanted to transmit that what Rome provokes in me, the feeling of an intrinsic matter, indissoluble, in difference with Paris, made of small parks and open spaces, crossed by the sky and the wind. Hand in hand with the film, the difficulty of the two lovers assumes a clearer, more explicit form. But as much as, in my opinion, it is impossible to describe and film Rome, the difficulty in the love of a couple can never be totally understood.”
Marguerite Duras, Venice film festival catalogue, 1982. Continue reading

Marguerite Duras – Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert (1976)

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When the film Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert was initially shown in 1976, many viewers found it hauntingly beautiful but deeply perplexing. Some, seeing it as a sign of Duras’ inability to separate herself from the making of India Song, even ascribed the film to a kind of postpartum depression. Since that time, the film has been placed in perspective as an inseparable component of the India cycle as a whole, although little has been written, with certain notable exceptions, on its specific relation to the other works. Son nom de Venise dans Calcutta désert is a purely metanarrative epilogue that culminates the progressive decomposition of spectacle as well as the dismantling of the neocolonial subject conceived as specular identity that was initiated by previous works in the India cycle. The film confirms the paradoxical character of the mimetic illusion, whose mirror functions as an ontological abyss for the desiring subject. Its seductive ideal of absolute identity and mastery in fact results in passivity and impotence. Conceived as a means of guaranteeing individuals the illusion of a form of immortality, it actually removes them from the arena of real action, enslaving them to a sterile fantasy. Continue reading

Kidlat Tahimik – Mababangong bangungot aka Perfumed Nightmare (1977)

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Upon first glance, Perfumed Nightmare looks amateurish and raw. It is, too, I suppose, but this works to the film’s advantage. This is the semiautobiographical story of a young Filipino man (played by writer/director Kidlat Tahimik) who worships everything about America. He is especially caught up in the space program: he wants to visit Cape Canaveral, and he is the president and founder of his small (300 people) village’s Werner Von Braun fan club. This might just be the only fan club in the world that worships the Bavarian expatriate who is regarded as the father of rocketry. He and his club members have ice cream sales to fund their activities, which include sponsoring the Miss Philippenes pageant. Continue reading

Deborah Stratman – The Illinois Parables (2016)

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An experimental documentary comprised of regional vignettes about faith, force, technology and exodus. Eleven parables relay histories of settlement, removal, technological breakthrough, violence, messianism and resistance, all occurring somewhere in the state of Illinois. But the state is a structural ruse, and its histories are allegories that ask what belief might teach us about nationhood. In our desire to understand the inscrutable, whom do we end up blaming or endorsing? Continue reading

Ben Hopkins – The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz (2000)

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A sadly neglected gem of British Cinema, this stunningly inventive film takes in German Expressionism, the pop promo, the docudrama and film noir. And that’s just for starters. The story of a mysterious man who creates chaos and anarchy in his wake, this has buckets of sly humour and a pleasingly dark edge. With brilliant performances from Thomas Fisher and Ian McNeice, this is an astounding reminder that UK cinema is much more than gangsters and girls in corsets. Continue reading

Robert Beavers – The Hedge Theater (1986-90/2002)

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The Hedge Theater, USA 1986-90/2002, 19 min

Cast: Robert Beavers, Gregory J. Markopoulos

Beavers shot The Hedge Theatre in Rome in the 1980s. It is an intimate film inspired by the Baroque architecture and stone carvings of Francesco Borromini and St. Martin and the Beggar, a painting by the Sienese painter Il Sassetta. Beavers’ montage contrasts the sensuous softness of winter light with the lush green growth brought by spring rains. Each shot and each source of sound is steeped in meaning and placed within the film’s structure with exacting skill to build a poetic relationship between image and sound. (Susan Oxtoby, Toronto International Film Festival) Continue reading

Azadeh Navai – Friday Mosque (2014)

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A silent meditation on the Islamic prayer ritual through motion (water is the core, but light is the cause) in FRIDAY MOSQUE. Shot on high-contrast black and white 16mm film, Navai hand processed the negative and painstakingly contact- printed the strips of celluloid. The resulting image quivers and pulses. Enlarged film grain nearly obliterates the already abstracted image. There exists both a tension and serenity in the flickering frame. Every element is preparing for and anticipating the faithful soul that is summoned to the everyday practice. The silent tune of the calling, Azan, has overtaken. Continue reading