Jacques Rivette & Suzanne Schiffman – Out 1, noli me tangere (1971)

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Though Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 is often described as a time capsule, it hardly functions as a medium for concrete historical research. The 1971 film takes place in a major global city (Paris in the late ’60s) for all of its 13 hours, but it’s notable for how radically disconnected it is from the quotidian texture of metropolitan life—from matters like what any of its characters do to make a living, how they get around, what their typical routine is, what they eat or drink, or what they do in their downtime. Continue reading

Massoud Bakhshi – Tehran Anar Nadarad AKA Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! (2007)

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Tehran is a large village near the city of Rey, full of gardens and fruit trees.  Its inhabitants live in anthill-like underground holes.  The village’s several districts are constantly at war.  Tehranis’ main occupations are theft and crime, though the king pretends they are subject to him.  They grow excellent fruits, notably an excellent pomegranate, which is found only in Tehran.
– Asar-o-Lblab, 1241 A.D

Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! is a postmodern documentary that is as witty and engaging as it is informative.  The style of the film is fun and very visual, with the director, Massoud Bakhshi, using incredible archival footage, an original visual approach and terrific soundtrack that takes us through 150 years of Tehran’s history. Onscreen, Bakhshi may fail to complete his film, but he succeeds in both documenting Tehran’s history and entertaining us with its poignant contradictions. Continue reading

Klaus Wyborny – Bilder vom verlorenen Wort AKA Pictures of the Lost World (1971–1975)

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For 50 minutes or so Pictures presents a series of static, or gently swaying images which are sometimes bucolic landscapes but more often industrial ones (sludgy harbours, power lines, abandoned railway stations or deserted factories). The interplay between the two sets of imagery is not simple. Wyborny photographs his modern ruins at their most ravishing – at dawn or sunset, partially reflected in the water or glimpsed through the trees. Shots recur throughout, optically printed into brilliant colours or else, given the washed out quality of fifth generation Xeroxes. As there are few people shown, one’s impression is of a planet that is populated mainly by cows, barges and hydraulic drills. Continue reading

Klaus Wyborny – Die Geburt der Nation AKA The Birth of a Nation (1973)

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Authentically ‘New’ German Cinema, and, simultaneously, an archaeology of narrative film itself, Wyborny’s avant-garde landmark defines cinema as a ‘nation’ that has perversely acquired rulers, laws and hierarchies before it has even been physically mapped out. At first appearing to spin an elementary yarn of social organisation (the predictably fraught establishment of a rudimentary commune in the Moroccan desert of 1911) in the ‘authoritative’ film language of DW Griffith, Wyborny proceeds to break down that language to its constituent elements and produce fragmentary hints of alternatives. Structural film-making of a rare wit and accessibility results, with flashes of appropriate absurdity highlighting the redundancy of closed systems, whether social or cinematic. Continue reading

Manoel de Oliveira – Acto da Primavera AKA Rite of Spring (1963)

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Oliveira returned to the center of Portugal’s film scene in the 1960s with Acto da Primavera (Rite of spring; 1963), a work that marks a significant change in the director’s trajectory and that initiates some of the cinematic strategies that he would develop more fully in later films. In Acto da Primavera, Oliveira offers a version of a popular representation of the Passion of Christ, enacted by members of a rural community in northern Portugal, derived from the Auto da Paixão de Jesus Cristo (1559), by Francisco Vaz de Guimarães. He came across the annual Easter drama in the small town of Curalha when he was looking for locations for “O Pão,” and he was so taken by it that he wanted to return and register it on film. Continue reading

Ian Hugo – Bells of Atlantis (1952)

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+ BELLS OF ATLANTIS (Ian Hugo 1952 16mm 10 mins)
A perfect fusion of poetry and film, with dense layered imagery and music from electro pioneers Louise and Bebe Barron. The writer Anais Nin provides dialogue from her novella ‘House of Incest’ and appears adrift in the undersea realm of Atlantis before ascending to dry land. Continue reading