Mark Cousins – Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise (2015)

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This hypnotic documentary by cinephile par excellence Mark Cousins takes a brave – but increasingly rewarding – abstract angle by seeking through aesthetic rather than conventional exposition to capture the strange, sensory ethos of the Atomic age (a period spanning approximately 1940-60 but having a far-reaching legacy up to the present day). Using Mogwai’s ethereal electronic soundtrack as his conduit, Cousins takes us through the history of the Atomic period through sound and image alone (there is no overt narration) – even trying ambitiously to suggest that splitting the atom and creating atomic weapons were not in themselves immediately malign developments but almost the end-game of a form of evolution, and symbol of mankind’s mastery over the properties of his planet. Hence Cousins finds in the famous, awe-inspiring images of atomic mushroom clouds a correlation with more common sights of proliferation in nature (a bud that grows, a flower that blooms, sperm that fertilises an egg). Continue reading

Adam Curtis – The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom (2007)

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The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a BBC documentary series by British filmmaker Adam Curtis, well known for other documentaries including The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares. It began airing on BBC Two on 11 March, 2007.

The series consists of three one-hour programmes which explore the concept and definition of freedom, specifically “how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom.” Continue reading

Joe Dante – The Movie Orgy (1968)

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A compilation film designed to evoke nostalgia for the shared entertainment experiences of early baby boomers, “The Movie Orgy” includes clips from television programs and B-movies of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as commercials, music clips, newsreels, blooper outtakes, satiric short films and promotional and government films. The effect is something like a simulation of a lazy Saturday of channel surfing or a long double (or triple) matinee at the movies. The film is primarily structured around extended clips from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) and Speed Crazy (1959); as it progresses, segments primarily culled from about a dozen other films and programs are increasingly intercut to create the effect of a single disjointed story in which numerous monsters and assorted social menaces seem to inflict themselves simultaneously on various American cities and towns. This principal focus is occasionally interrupted by commercial breaks and other assorted side features. (IMDB, Written by scgary66) Continue reading

Ulrike Ottinger – Freak Orlando (1981)

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As Orlando (Magdalena Montezuma) enters the world of “freaks,” the movie develops scenes from a mythological netherworld, the Spanish Inquisition, the Middle Ages, and a few other settings to focus on unusual characters with physical or mental oddities. By the time the various vignettes that take place in these separate periods are completed, each with their own points and counterpoints, the “freaks” seem much less odd than their physically normal contemporaries. After Orlando has revealed much about the human condition through glimpses of a P.T. Barnum side-show, Siamese twins, as well as modern sexual morés, her journey with the viewer is completed. The device of Orlando, the time-traveler and liberated bisexual is based on Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando: A Biography.” The same set of actors play different roles in each of the five chronological segments. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi Continue reading

Dziga Vertov – Chelovek s kino-apparatom aka Man with a movie camera (1929)

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This playful film is at once a documentary of a day in the life of the Soviet Union, a documentary of the filming of said documentary, and a depiction of an audience watching the film. Even the editing of the film is documented. We often see the cameraman who is purportedly making the film, but we rarely, if ever, see any of the footage he seems to be in the act of shooting! Continue reading