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

Maurice Tourneur – La Main du Diable aka Carnival of Sinners (1943)

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A man arrives at an isolated mountain inn clutching a small box. The man is panic-struck when, during a sudden blackout, the box disappears. To the assembled guests at the inn he tells his tragic story. The man, Roland Brissot, was once a penniless artist who, one day, bought a talisman from the owner of a restaurant for one franc. The talisman, a severed hand in a box, immediately transformed Brissot’s life and he became a hugely successful artist. Then, one day, he receives a visit from a small man in a suit who tells him that in buying the talisman, he has sold his soul to the Devil… Continue reading

Aleksandr Rou – Vechera na khutore bliz Dikanki AKA The Night Before Christmas (1961)

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The whimsical combination of Christmas phantasmagoria and an eccentric fairy tale makes this film an unforgettable spectacle. The action takes place both in a village of Dikanka in the Ukraine and at the palace of a Russian Empress. Blacksmith Vacula has enraged the devil himself: in a church he painted the devil’s figure in such a way that even the hell’s inhabitants could not help laughing. Solokha, Vacula’s mother, is known to be a witch, not averse to flying on a besom. Vacula’s sweetheart, Oksana, demands for a Christmas present a pair of tcherevichki (shoes) that the Empress wears. Only then she will agree to marry Vacula. And the devil promises to help the blacksmith get the Empress’ shoes, on condition that Vacula sells him his soul. Meanwhile, Christmas is almost here. Based on Gogol’s story. Continue reading

Jean Cocteau & René Clément – La belle et la bête AKA Beauty and the Beast (1946)

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While some other mid-20th-century directors were pursuing the chimera of “total cinema,” Jean Cocteau was chasing down the dream of a “total art.” But if “total cinema” meant capturing on screen the actual world as it really was, Cocteau’s “total art” meant giving form, instead, to the otherwise impalpable worlds of desire and dream. Both quests were fundamentally unrealistic, but Cocteau embraced this truth in ways both joyously inventive and technically rigorous. The most ambitious and talented fabulist since E.T.A. Hoffmann, Cocteau not only produced a vast and diverse corpus of poems, drawings, plays, sculptures, novels, and libretti, he also wrote and directed a small but astonishing group of films. Beauty and the Beast is the best of his five feature films and the greatest fable of his entire oeuvre—a vulnerable-beast-in-love tale to end all others, from King Kong to Edward Scissorhands. Continue reading