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

Nacer Khemir – Tawk al Hamama al Mafkoud AKA Le collier perdu de la colombe AKA The Dove’s Lost Necklace (1991)

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Synopsis:
The story revolves around Hassan, who is studying Arabic calligraphy from a grand master. Coming across a fragment of manuscript, Hassan goes in search of the missing pieces, believing that once he finds them, he will learn the secrets of love. With the help of Zin, a lovers’ go-between, he meets the beautiful Aziz, Princess of Samarkand. After encountering wars, a battle between false prophets and an ancient curse, he learns that an entire lifetime would not suffice for him to learn the many dimensions of love. Continue reading

Carl Theodor Dreyer – Der var engang AKA Once Upon a Time (1922)

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Once upon a Time (a.k.a. Der var engang) is an atypical film for the Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, a departure from his more usual realistic dramas into the realm of fantasy and fairytale. It was the only film that Dreyer made for the independent film producer Sophus Madsen, a Danish film enthusiast whose only other production was Laurids Skands’s all but forgotten Livets Karneval (1923). The film was adapted from a play by Holger Drachmann, written in 1885, that was itself based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale Svinedrengen and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the
Shrew. From the outset, this was conceived as a lavish production, but it soon ran into financial difficulties. Even though some scenes were cut – including an extravagant market sequence – the film still ended up with a 150 per cent overspend on its 90,000
kroner budget. Continue reading

Bernard Queysanne – Un homme qui dort AKA The Man Asleep (1974)

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In this French tour-de-force a young student (Jacques Speisser) decides to have no more interaction with the world than is needed to minimally sustain life. His increasingly automaton-like behavior is coupled with a strange clarity of insight about the world around him. His inner musings as he wanders the luminous streets of Paris are narrated in the form of an unwritten diary by Ludmila Mikael. Continue reading

Çetin Inanç – Demir pençe (korsan adam) AKA Iron Claw the Pirate (1969)

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With his operations in Istanbul being continually upset by the masked patriot-cum-vigilante Iron Claw the Pirate (Demir Karahan) and his female sidekick Mine (Nebahat Cehre), the legendary super villain Fantomas (Necati Er) travels to the city intent on eliminating the pair. In the meantime, a government operative, Yilmaz (Oktar Durukan), is killed during a raid on one of Fantomas’s lairs and his brother Yildirim (Yildirim Gencer) vows revenge. Teaming up with Iron Claw, Mine and the mysterious agent Uncle (Danyal Topatan), Yildirim soon finds himself in the thick of the action. But if our heroes are going to defeat Fantomas, they must first get past his chief henchman, the hulking, metal-handed Behcet (Behcet Nacar). Continue reading

Achim Bornhak – Der Nachtmahr AKA The Nightmare (2015)

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After a night of partying in a mansion with a swimming pool, teenager Tina starts to experience weird things. She hallucinates a violent deja-vu, and hears discomforting sounds. At home she is haunted by a mysterious creature that only she can see. The film suggest several explanations for her visions. Is she overly tense? Psychotic? Drugged? Jealous? Her parents and friends seem to think she is going through a phase. Tina is convinced that the creature is for real, and she starts identifying with in a way that prompts her parents to take drastic measures on her behalf.

DER NACHTMAHR (“the nightmare”) is best characterized as an atmospheric thriller or indeed like a dream: at times feverishly slow, at other times restless and shifting. A vibrant electronica-soundtrack and superb acting from Carolyn Genzkow in the leading role makes it a captivating film experience. Continue reading