Jean Cocteau – Orphée AKA Orpheus [+commentary] (1950)

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Jean Cocteau died on October 11, 1963, the same exact day that his longtime friend, the French chanteuse Edith Piaf, succumbed to liver cancer not all that far away. Some have even speculated that the news of Piaf’s death was what spurred the heart attack that claimed Cocteau, a beautiful, if melancholic coincidence, if we are to put our full faith into what’s ostensibly rumor, seeing as the famed poet, theater director, and filmmaker often remarked that he was more scared of the deaths of his loved ones than he was of his own inevitable demise. Continue reading

Marcel Carné – Les visiteurs du soir AKA The Devil’s Envoys (1942)

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Synopsis
Two wandering minstrels, Gilles and Dominique, arrive at the castle of the Baron Hugh just as he announces the engagement of his daughter Anne to the knight Renaud. However Gilles and Dominique have really sold their souls to The Devil and have been charged with traveling throughout the land and tempting mortals into damnation by causing them to fall in love with them. Dominique causes both Renaud and Hugh to fall for her. Meanwhile Gilles seduces Anne but then falls for her himself. And so The Devil arrives in person to visit a cruel punishment on the two lovers. Continue reading

Emir Kusturica – On the Milky Road (2016)

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Spring in wartime. Each day a milkman crosses the frontline on a donkey, dodging bullets to bring his precious wares to the soldiers. Blessed with good fortune on his mission, loved by a beautiful villager, a peaceful future seems to await him… until the arrival of a mysterious Italian woman turns his life upside down. Thus begins a story of passionate, forbidden love that will plunge them both into a series of fantastic and dangerous adventures. They have been joined by fate, and nothing and no one seems able to stop them… Two-times Palme D’Or winner Emir Kusturica directs and stars in this story of love and war, rich in emotion, comedy and adventure. Continue reading

Agnès Varda – Jane B. par Agnès V. AKA Jane B. for Agnes V. (1988)

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There is a good theory that explains why Agnes Varda’s Jane B. for Agnes V. was never officially distributed in the United States. Apparently, the few distributors that saw it after Varda completed it in 1988 concluded that it was too abstract and therefore too risky to sign. So until recently, it had been screened only a few times at festivals and retrospectives.

Having just viewed Jane B. for Agnes V. for the first time ever, I can agree that it is different. It is a fluid experimental project that matches the audacity of Jean-Luc Godard’s early films and the quiet elegance of Eric Rohmer’s best films, but feels distinctively modern. There is a side of it that easily could have been envisioned by the late Chantal Akerman as well. There was a script for it, but once Varda started shooting the film evolved and actually expanded in different directions. (Le Petit Amout aka Kung-Fu Master! emerged as a natural continuation of this expansion). Continue reading

Jim Henson & Frank Oz & Gary Kurtz – The Dark Crystal (1982)

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Jim Henson ventures into Tolkien territory in his all-Muppet fantasy feature The Dark Crystal. The titular Crystal maintains equilibrium in a mythical kingdom. When the Crystal is broken, the evil Skeksis take over, killing off the good-guy Gelflings and enslaving everyone else. Two of the Gelflings have survived: Jen was raised by the all-knowing Mystics, while Kira grew up amongst the swamp-dwelling Podlings. Jen and Kira join forces to “heal” the precious Dark Crystal and restore order to their world. Adults may find the whole affair a little precious, while children may be disturbed by the film’s mortality rate. Continue reading

Agnieszka Smoczynska – Córki dancingu AKA The Lure (2015)

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One dark night, at water’s edge, a family of musicians encounter aquatic sirens Silver and Golden. After assuring the family that they won’t eat them up, the winsome sirens are recruited to join the Figs and Dates band at a neon-lit Warsaw dance club. When Silver becomes romantically entangled with beautiful blonde bassist Mietek, the more cunning Golden, who cannot escape her bloodthirsty nature, worries that her sister’s relationship will doom their shared dream of swimming to a new life in America. Continue reading

Alejandro Jodorowsky – Poesía sin fin AKA Endless Poetry (2016)

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Through Alejandro Jodorowsky’s autobiographical lens, Endless Poetry narrates the years of the Chilean artist’s youth during which he liberated himself from all of his former limitations, from his family, and was introduced into the foremost bohemian artistic circle of 1940s Chile where he met Enrique Lihn, Stella Díaz Varín, Nicanor Parra… at the time promising young but unknown artists who would later become the titans of twentieth-century Hispanic literature. He grew inspired by the beauty of existence alongside these beings, exploring life together, authentically and freely. A tribute to Chile’s artistic heritage, Endless Poetry is also an ode to the quest for beauty and inner truth, as a universal force capable of changing one’s life forever, written by a man who has dedicated his life and career to creating spiritual and artistic awareness across the globe. Continue reading